Government unveils plans for 10,000 extra training places for nurses, midwives and AHPs

Some applicants will be able to start studying as early as next month.

The government has today announced plans for 10,000 additional training places for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, with some available from as early as next month.

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The Department of Health (DH) said the extra places mean that 100,000 training places will available overall between now and 2020, representing an 11% increase on current figures.

Today's announcement coincides with the end of a cap on training places in England, funded by scrapping the bursary for nursing and midwifery courses from this month, and replacing it with tuition fees.

Plan were also unveiled for the 'biggest-ever expansion' of the NHS medical workforce, with 1,500 extra doctors a year trained in the NHS by 2020. 

The RCN said while news of extra places was welcome, it would do little to solve current nursing shortages.

Fulfilling potential

Announcing the expansion, health minister Philip Dunne said: ‘For too long, a cap on training places has meant thousands of talented students are rejected from university courses each year despite meeting entry requirements for medicine or nursing.

‘These students will now be able to fulfil their potential as our future NHS nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.’

The news of additional training places coincides with figures released which show the number of nursing degree applicants to universities in the UK has fallen by 19% in the past year.

Commenting on the announcement, RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: Any investment in training placements for nursing students is welcome news but it will do little to solve current nursing shortages.

'The health and care system desperately needs proper workforce planning. It’s unclear where extra nursing students will come from, when the removal of student funding is putting many people off entering the profession.

Turning off the tap

'When it comes to the future supply of nurses, the government is turning off the tap - nursing degree applications have fallen sharply and the pay cap is forcing many nurses out of the job they love.

'It’s time for ministers to face facts: they will struggle to build a strong and resilient workforce unless they lift the cap on pay and reinstate student funding.'


Figures released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in July revealed applicants who made at least one choice of a nursing course by the latest deadline fell from 65,620 in June 2016 to 53,010 in June 2017.

England saw the sharpest fall, with a 23% drop, compared with 10% in Wales, 6% in Northern Ireland and 2% in Scotland.

Mature students

Unions expressed concern about the fall in mature students applying. Most applicants to nursing are more than 19 years old, and UCAS figures show applicants from England in this age group decreased by between 14% and 27%.

The expansion in training places was welcomed by chair of the Council of Deans of Health Brian Webster-Henderson, who said: ‘We have been working closely with the DH to ensure that universities have the certainty to be able to plan to expand provision over the next three years.

‘Although universities have reported a good number of high-quality applicants, we will need to monitor applications from mature students where we have seen a decline this year.

‘Effective promotion of healthcare careers will be vital to ensuring that universities can recruit additional students and educate the healthcare workforce required for the future.'

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