The Interim NHS People Plan, released today, commits to “shifting perceptions” of nursing as part of tactics to fill vacancies and to repair the damage done by the removal of the student bursary.
The document (see PDF attached below) notes how overall applications for nursing and midwifery courses fell by 31% between 2016 and 2018, following the government’s education funding reform.
While all branches of nursing suffered, the report brands the 50% decrease in applicants for learning disabilities nursing “particularly concerning”.
The plan also notes “significant falls” in specific demographics including a 39% drop in applications from mature students and a 40% decline in male applicants.
As part of the new strategy, current recruitment drives run different national bodies – such as NHS England’s We are the NHS advertising initiative and the chief nursing officer’s Transforming Perceptions programme – will be consolidated into a single campaign that “reflects the realities of a career in modern nursing at the cutting edge of clinical practice”.
“This will focus on those branches of nursing with the greatest vacancies, address demographic issues, and support local health systems with the biggest challenges by linking national and local initiatives,” said the document.
The dedication of 2020 to the international year of the nurse and midwife provided an opportunity to enhance the image of the profession, it added.
The document reveals ambitions to target 15-to-17-year-olds to encourage them to consider a career in nursing.
A network of 2,000 nurse and midwife ambassadors who currently promote the profession in schools as part of the CNO’s Transforming Perceptions initiative will be expanded.
Young people will also be given more work experience opportunities in nursing and midwifery, said the report.
Meanwhile, a new marketing campaign will be launched in partnership between Health Education England and parenting website Mumsnet to get more nurses to return to practice after a career break.
This will be designed to “inspire more nurses to return to practice and make them aware of the opportunities and support available”, said the workforce plan.
The campaign will build on the “successful work” already carried out to support nurses who have let their registration lapse to re-join, it added, noting how 5,400 nurses had signed up to a return to practice course since September 2014.
The full, costed NHS People Plan is due to be released later this year following the government’s spending review.
This final plan will consider what more can be done to make sure people completing return to practice courses actually start jobs in the NHS, said the document.
Dr Katerina Kolyva, executive director of the Council of Deans of Health, which represents faculties of nursing and midwifery, said the organisation “fully supports” the commitment in the plan to strengthening the image and perception of the profession.
The interim plan released today is a follow-up to the NHS Long Term Plan published in January.
The document lays out a host of actions that will be taken to attempt to grow England’s nurse workforce by more than 40,000 by 2024.
News stories on the interim NHS People Plan