As nursing applications plunge, the government must reverse its bursaries decision

Profession's 'worst fears' confirmed as applications fall by 23 per cent


Applications to nursing courses and midwifery courses have fallen by 23 per cent in the last year, according to new figures published by UCAS this week.

The Royal College of Nursing says the figures are ‘confirming the worst fears’ of the profession regarding the government’s decision to scrap bursaries and replace them with student loans.

‘We warned the Government the removal of student funding would see a sharp drop in nursing applications,’ RCN general secretary Janet Davies commented yesterday.

“The nursing workforce is in crisis and if fewer nurses graduate in 2020 it will exacerbate what is already an unsustainable situation. The outlook is bleak – fewer EU nurses are coming to work in the UK following the Brexit vote, and by 2020 nearly half the workforce will be eligible for retirement.”

The government finalised its plans to scrap NHS England bursaries in July of last year, claiming that the shift to student loans would create an additional 10,000 nursing places. Instead, the reverse has happened: 9,900 fewer people have chosen to study nursing in 2017 compared to 2016. There are current 24,000 nursing vacancies in the UK.

In response to the figures, UNISON, the public services union, called on ministers to ‘accept they got this wrong and rethink this disastrous policy’.

The union is advising the government to reintroduce bursaries for another year to allow itself some breathing space, during which a full-scale review of funding models can be conducted.

Christina McAnea, UNISON’s head of health commented:

“There’s likely to be a similar drop in applications for other NHS students, which begs the question as to who will be caring for us all in the future.”

See: Public supports increasing taxes to fund the NHS

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