Nurses yesterday presented a petition to 10 Downing Street demanding urgent action to tackle the ongoing workforce crisis.
Nurse vacancies in England recently topped 44,000 for the first time. And in spite of a small increase on last year, the number of people applying for nursing degrees is still 25% lower than in 2016 – the last year students received the bursary.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said : “With just under 36,000 people applying to courses in England this year, compared to over 48,000 in 2016 - a 25% drop - the number of potential new nurses is way below what is needed to close the gap in the NHS in England, let alone what‘s needed for social care and public health.”
The new government gave a pre-election promise to recruit 50,000 new nurses and the Royal RCN has welcomed the government’s promise of a £5,000 grant to help students starting studies in September this year with living costs, but has called for all nursing students to receive tuition fee support.
And the College has reiterated its calls for urgent investment in the upcoming budget to build the nursing workforce, as nursing degree applications remain far below what is required for staffing for safe and effective care.
Dame Donna said the small increase in applications for nursing degrees was positive but these figures should really focus minds – “decisive action is needed, and with relative urgency, to rise to the scale of the challenge”.
“Would-be nurses are still being put off by the requirement to pay tuition fees and the prospect of a lifetime of student debt."
Dame Donna added: “A clear level of ambition was set late last year and nursing courses are yet to see a surge in interest. All the while, record numbers of nurse jobs are unfilled and patient safety is compromised.
“To see the promised 50,000 new nurses, we need to see the full range of support to build the nursing workforce.
“At the upcoming budget, I urge the chancellor to provide tuition fee funding for nursing courses and living grants that reflect genuine student living costs."
Mike Adams, RCN England director, said: “The voices of nurses and the public could not be clearer - resolving the nursing workforce shortage in England must be the highest priority for the government.
“We need there to be a legal responsibility to ensure there are enough nurses now and for the future to provide safe and effective care to all patients.
“We urge the government to listen to the voices of those we have taken to the steps of Downing Street and take urgent and decisive action to resolve the nursing workforce crisis in England.”
Image courtesy of RCN