Nurses’ doubts over whether NHS workforce plan can boost staffing
Some air skepticism on social media about how expanded undergraduate nursing education can be supported in practice when experience staff are becoming harder to retain
Nurses have voiced scepticism about the new NHS workforce plan, calling for more detail on how thousands more nursing training places will be ‘magically’ created.
The long-awaited NHS England plan to address the workforce crisis, announced by prime minister Rishi Sunak on Friday, includes a government pledge to recruit 190,000 more nurses in the next 15 years.
Other objectives include:
- A 53,000 increase in nurse education places by 2031-32. This would include almost doubling the number of adult nurse places to 38,000.
- Boosting mental health nurse education places by 38%.
- Increasing learning disability nursing education places by 46%.
Clinical placements compromised by poor staff retention
While some welcomed the commitment to increase the domestic workforce, others speculated about how students would be be supported on clinical placement since senior nurses are leaving the NHS due to stagnant pay and burnout.
‘Where are they going to find all the pre-reg student placements? We struggle to place students as it is. There are not enough assessors in practice and poor quality teaching due to chronic understaffed clinical areas.’
Many people echoed these concerns, asking where the capacity for expanded education in universities and clinical placements will come from.
Nursing Standard analysis shows that around one third of nursing students failed to complete their nursing degrees on time in 2022, with many citing financial strain and pressures of working during the pandemic.
Nurse Harry Eccles said scrapping tuition fees and reintroducing the student bursary would be the first step to boosting student numbers and slowing attrition, with many others unimpressed with the workforce plan’s ‘vague’ proposals on how to retain current staff.
Children’s nursing seems to be a low priority
Nurse Rebekah also criticised a lack of apparent plan for children’s nursing.
Others questioned the focus on apprenticeships and whether paying apprentice nurses while nursing degree students work shifts for free was a realistic prospect.
‘Start with retention, retention, retention,’ tweeted Simon Whittaker. ‘Without a motivated existing workforce to train the new workforce, any plan is destined to fail. Train them so others want to poach them. Treat them so they want to stay.’
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