‘Better financial support could encourage more people into nursing career’

Health Education England’s RePAIR report recommends targeted funds for prospective students

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Prospective nursing students – in particular mature ones – should have access to hardship funds, a new Health Education England (HEE) report recommends.

Such targeted financial support is one of 14 recommendations from HEE’s Reducing Attrition and Improving Retention (RePAIR) project, mandated by the government in 2015 to cut student drop-out rates on preregistration healthcare programmes by 50%.

Financial problems the top concern

RePAIR, which studied attrition data from 16 universities, received survey responses from 3,447 students and found financial problems were the top reason they considered leaving courses.

Many students said they were unable to earn enough – or any – money while studying and were either sliding into debt or had to depend on others to support them.

Others noted the challenges caused by costs relating to clinical placements, such as travel and parking, or said that working shifts meant they struggled to find part-time paid employment.

One first-year student said: ‘I’m scared about my finances and I don’t think I will be able to continue to support myself financially.’

A third-year student said: ‘I am on less money now than I was [when] studying at college on income support. I really need help wherever I can get it – so extra loans from university and hardship funds.’

RePAIR data show that the percentage of students across all preregistration healthcare programmes who did not complete courses on time was 33.4%.

This is even higher than the 24% figure for nursing student attrition revealed by Nursing Standard’s recent annual survey of universities.

RePAIR recommendations include:

  • Standardising how attrition is recorded and understood
  • Making hardship funds available to encourage more prospective students to embark on a career in nursing, midwifery or therapeutic radiography
  • Helping students to understand in advance of starting their studies the challenges and demands of their chosen course and career
  • Specific programmes of support for students in the second year of study – found to be the toughest year
  • Reviewing preceptorship programmes


Alongside the report, HEE has created a toolkit to help higher education institutions, service provider organisations and policy-makers to reduce attrition, with a range of learning materials, videos and examples of best practice.

HEE regional chief nurse John Clark, who led RePAIR said: ‘Attrition is everyone’s business. Every individual or organisation providing preregistration healthcare education or contributing to clinical placement education must ask how they can work together with HEE to respond to the recommendations made in this report.’

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