Cautious welcome to increase in nursing student training posts

Scottish government promises to boost numbers of trainees and commits to providing student bursaries

RCN Scotland has cautiously welcomed the Scottish government’s 5.6 per cent increase in the numbers of trainee nurses.

It is the fourth successive rise and will take the recommended intake to above 3,200 students next year.

But RCN Scotland associate director Ellen Hudson said: ‘We have constantly raised concerns about the need for a robust, long-term process for deciding student numbers and we are now at the stage of saying that this is the last chance the government has to get it right.’

Between 2010/11 and 2012/13, the number of students starting courses was cut by 20%. ‘The current increases are now only playing catch-up to bring student intake figures back up to a level that will ensure the appropriate numbers of newly qualified nurses are entering the workforce.’

As part of yesterday’s announcement, the Scottish government will, for the first time, start projecting student intake figures over a three-year period with a built-in annual review. Initiating three-year projections will help predict the numbers of needed students and will be carried out in partnership with all stakeholders.

‘We are pleased that the government has agreed to move from deciding the student nurse intakes each year to a more sensible three-year planning cycle. We must now work together to get this right for the future,’ said Ms Hudson.

Health secretary Shona Robison has also confirmed that the Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary and allowances are to be protected at existing levels in 2016/17. A review of the bursary scheme with stakeholders is on-going and will report in June 2016.

She said: ‘We are committed to protecting the bursary at existing levels for 2016/17. This package of support remains distinctive and generous by comparison with England. Our approach to student support – alongside our commitment to free tuition fees – is in stark contrast with actions of the UK government where free nursing tuition and bursaries are to be removed entirely.’

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