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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3 Responses to “As nursing applications plunge, the government must reverse its bursaries decision”

  1. Craig Mackay

    It is remarkable the extent to which the government simply doesn’t understand the numbers. The 23% collapse in applications for nursing training places combined with the 90% collapse in applications from EU nurses to register in the UK means we have a massive crisis on our hands. There are 24,000 nursing vacancies at present and the attrition rate because of the harsh working conditions and the squeeze on the NHS adds to the problems. You can become very much more depressed by looking at:

  2. Charlie Jenkins

    I can’t help but feel like this Tory government is pushing the NHS to the point that it needs to be privatized… obviously if you increase tuition fees and freeze pay then the number of people in training will decrease, it’s basic economics!

    The real tragedy is that in the next 10 years it’s going to become harder for nurses from the countries we’re currently reliant on for labor within the NHS (Portugal, Spain, Italy) won’t be able to get here! This will push labor rates up and will mean all our best nurses will end up going to private hospitals, just to pay off their tuition!

    Jeremy Hunt has never worked a day in a hospital in his life, and he’s destroying our national health service.

  3. Mike Stallard

    My wife has been a nurse until she retired (age, not health). She sees herself as a trusted professional. I repeat “trusted”. She believed that the patient comes first and that is was her duty to look her patient, mind, body and spirit. She had to be trusted to do this. That is why nursing is a profession. It gets a salary so that money worries are taken away and the nurse if free to do her best freely.
    Obviously better and more experienced nurses have been there to advise and, very rarely, to check up and make sure things were going smoothly.
    Jeremy Hunt’s views are totally opposite. Nurses are a commodity to be organised and checked up on with a lot of necessary paperwork. This is public money and it needs to be accounted for. A whole division of people are put in to do just this. Some are given extraordinary salaries to make sure public money is well spent. They never visit the wards – even the hospitals. Why should they? It is stats and figures that count. Throughput and managerial skills.

    That is why my wife left professional nursing and became an Agency Nurse. No paperwork. No bureaucracy. More freedom. The trouble was that all the talent had long since left the hospital and was now sitting in a distant office shuffling their fingers round a computer.

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