Latest figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show the number of undergraduate student nurses in England who have been placed in a university in England this year are up 4% since 2018, but are down 8% since 2016.
“We need to see decisive action through proper and sustained investment in our nurses of the future”
Nursing leaders have warned that the number of students going into nursing in England in the next academic cycle is “nowhere near enough” to meet both current and future demand, and will fail to close the gap in nurse vacancies.
According to the figures, 15,790 students in England have been placed on a nursing degree course in the country, up from 15,210 in 2018.
Despite the increase, the number of new students accepted onto nursing undergraduate degrees are down by 1,360 people in comparison to 2016, when the government scrapped the bursary which covered the cost of nurse tuition fees.
The stated aim of the reform of nurse student funding was described by ministers as a way to boost student places and increase the number of nursing students in England.
However, the Royal College of Nursing has claimed that the latest figures show this has “failed to work”, flagging the 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone.
Dame Donna Kinnair
Source: Royal College of Nursing
The RCN is calling on the government to invest at least £1bn per year into nursing education in England and states it must be underpinned by workforce planning for future population needs.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said it was “encouraging” to see future nurses being accepted onto courses and noted that she looked forward to welcoming them into the nursing workforce.
She said today’s figures show that there will still be fewer nurses than needed to enter the health and care system when they have completed their courses.
“If we are to boost the numbers needed to give patients the care they deserve, we need to see decisive action through proper and sustained investment in our nurses of the future,” said Dame Donna.
In total there are 21,360 new student nurses across the UK set to start in the 2019 cycle, which is up from 20,600 in 2018.
In Scotland, 3,060 students have been accepted onto undergraduate nursing degree courses across the UK, up from 2,870 in 2018.
“For those people that perhaps haven’t made their final career choice yet, then please just have a look at nursing”
There has also been a small increase in Wales, in which there have been 1,340 student nurses accepted this year in comparison with 1,320 last year.
In Northern Ireland 950 students have been accepted onto undergraduate nursing courses, up from 920 the previous year.
Meanwhile, to mark A-Level results day, chief nursing officer for England, Dr Ruth May, has also made a public appeal to students who are unsure of their career choices following their results to “have a look at nursing”.
Speaking in a video on social media site Twitter, Dr May said she hoped that those who had already chosen a nursing career would look forward to beginning university in September and noted that she looked forward to welcoming students personally on those courses.
“Though for those people that perhaps haven’t made their final career choice yet, then please just have a look at nursing,” she said.
“Have a look at the careers, just look online for ‘careers nursing’ and you will find lots of reasons as to why you would want to become a nurse.”
Dr May went on to share her own reasonings for wanting to become a nurse.
“I want to, and I still do even though I’ve been trained now for some years, I always wanted to be able to be there to influence, to care for somebody and their families at the most profound moments of their life,” she said.
She said it was the “most wonderful ability” to be able to care for and treat people.
“So, think about nursing and I hope to welcome you into our profession September,” said Dr May.