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Applications to nursing degrees continue steep decline

There were 5,000 fewer applicants to nursing programmes this year than in 2017, UCAS reveals

5,000 fewer students applied for nursing courses this year than in 2017, UCAS reveals


Since the loss of the bursary in England, nursing applications have continued to fall.
Picture: Alamy

Applications to nursing courses have dropped by a third in two years.

The number of people in England applying to begin nursing degrees fell from 51,840 in 2016 to 35,260 in 2018, according to Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) – a decline of almost 32%. This year there were almost 5,000 fewer applications than last year, when 40,060 were received.

The figures come a week after NHS England began the biggest recruitment drive in its history in a bid to educate young people about the possibilities open to them if they go on to pursue nursing careers.

The RCN said fewer than 700 nursing students began training in September 2017 than in the previous year, and it expects the figure to fall again this September.

'Patients at risk'

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'Failing to recruit more nurses puts patients at risk, we cannot sit back and watch applications fall year on year.

'It is clear now removing the bursary has been a disaster. It is time ministers looked again at this policy, before patients suffer the consequences.

'We urgently need financial incentives to attract more students, and nursing students must be encouraged and supported.

'Our health and social care system is crying out for more nurses, and recruitment should be the number-one priority for the new health secretary.'

Bursaries for student nurses and midwives were replaced by loans in August 2017.

The UCAS data takes into account all applications received by 30 June this year.

A total of 48,170 applications were made from people worldwide applying for UK-based universities, compared to 53,010 in 2017 – a drop of 8%, the figures show.

'Ensuring the future'

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: 'There are 52,000 nurses in training, with more to come thanks to our historic 25% increase in training places which will ensure we have the nurses we need for the future.'


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