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Academics Accuse Government of Reneging on Its Promise to Fund Student Nurse Placements

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

Universities have sent a warning to government over its decision to renege on plans to provide 10,000 new nursing degree places, which they argue is short-sighted and risks leaving the profession without a reliable recruitment plan.

As part of their degree, student nurses must spend at least 50% of their time working under supervision, usually in hospital. However, academics have reported that not a single extra nursing training place has been funded or allocated for the future.

Figures provided by the Council of Deans of Health, the body that represents university faculties of nursing, indicate it would cost around £15 million over five years to fund the training placements of 10,000 new nurses.

The government said last year it would free up £800 million and pay for the additional training placements by scrapping bursaries in favour of the standard £9,000 a year tuition fee. However, academics now say this was an empty promise.

They've warned government they must train more nurses, with applications for courses starting in 2017 falling 23% year-on-year. Worryingly, the number of EU nurses registering to practice in the UK has declined by a massive 96% over the course of twelve months. Those coming from the EU to work in the UK during April was just 46, compared to 1,304 last July.

Commenting on the lack of funding, professor Steve West, vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England, said: "At the moment it is not clear how the 10,000 new places for nurses could happen."

He added, universities were already struggling to protect hospital placements for existing students and with no money for training they'll be unable to take people on.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the planned changes would create up to 10,000 more training places for nurses and allied health professionals by the end of this parliament. They also said that even with the double-digit decline in applications, the NHS would still be able to fill the required 20,000 student nursing places this year.