07 February 2019

Nursing degree applications drop 30% since bursary removed

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Figures released by UCAS show the number of people applying to study nursing in England has fallen by more than 13,000 since 2016, the last year students received the bursary. 

Applications to study nursing in England have fallen for the second year running, dropping by a third since the Government removed bursaries requiring nurses and midwives to pay £9,000 a year in fees.

With 40,000 nursing vacancies in England, the Royal College of Nursing has said the fall in student numbers further jeopardises the future supply of nurses and puts safe patient care at risk. 

RCN Acting Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair said: “These figures show the scale of the workforce challenge ahead of us, and failure to act now risks patient care for a generation. The Long Term Plan deserves to succeed, but it cannot do so without the nurses to deliver it.

With applicant numbers showing no sign of recovering since the removal of student funding, health care services will ultimately have even fewer nurses to treat us in our hospitals, homes, schools and clinics.” 

Today’s figures show we all need to work together to address the workforce crisis, not only through investment in nurse education in England but through a workforce strategy that reflects the demands of the population in each country. This needs to be underpinned by legislation that guarantees the right number of nurses and nursing support staff to provide safe and effective care.

The RCN’s Fund Our Future campaign calls on the Government to invest at least £1bn per year in nursing higher education to help stop the decline in student nurse numbers and recruit the nursing staff needed to keep patients safe.

Newcross CEO Stephen Pattrick spoke of his concern surrounding declining university applications in an article published in 2017, in which he asserted:

"I flagged our concerns about the likely impact of Department of Health reforms in funding for nursing degrees. Withdrawing bursaries for student nurses would, I explained, probably result in fewer people applying for nursing degree courses.

"The Department of Health refuted this and reiterated their official view that applications could actually increase. The evidence we now have suggests that they were wrong. And none of us in the healthcare sector are surprised."

If you're studying nursing and are looking to acquire hands-on experience during your studies, we are hiring student nurses as healthcare assistants. Apply now!