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Increase in nursing degree applications ‘not enough to hit recruitment target’

Despite the rise, RCN says the government is still not on track for 50,000 more nurses
Students sat in a lecture theatre. Picture: iStock

Despite the rise in applicants in England, RCN says the government is still not on track for 50,000 more nurses

Applicant numbers for nursing courses in England have risen, but the RCN warns it is not enough to meet the governments recruitment target.

New data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show that applications for undergraduate nursing courses in England rose 16% to 47,320 in 2020, up from 40,780 in 2019.

Despite the rise, applications are 16.7% lower than in 2016, the last year the bursary was available to nursing students in England before it was scrapped by the Conservative government in 2017.

Despite the rise in applicants in England, RCN says the government is still not on track for 50,000 more nurses


Picture: iStock

Applicant numbers for nursing courses in England have risen, but the RCN warns it is not enough to meet the government’s recruitment target.

New data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show that applications for undergraduate nursing courses in England rose 16% to 47,320 in 2020, up from 40,780 in 2019.

Despite the rise, applications are 16.7% lower than in 2016, the last year the bursary was available to nursing students in England before it was scrapped by the Conservative government in 2017.

In 2016, 56,790 people applied to study nursing in England, 9,470 more than this year.

However, the government has increased financial support for nursing students from this year, with the September 2020 cohort of nursing students in England to receive at least £5,000 a year to cover living costs.

Government ‘has to do more to close the workforce gap’

Commenting on the UCAS data, RCN director for England Mike Adams said this year’s increase in applicants is positive but would not be enough to address staffing shortages.

‘This means that even if all of the latest applications are turned into acceptances and ultimately registered nurses, the large workforce gap will still not close,’ he said.

He added that for the government to fulfil its pledge to recruit 50,000 more nurses England by the end of this parliament it must do more to encourage people into nursing.

‘To achieve this, it must wipe the debt taken on by those who have needed it to study, provide full tuition fee support for all students and ensure maintenance support reflects students’ actual living costs,’ he said.

Applicants in the rest of the UK

  • 9,270 applied to study in Scotland

  • 5,630 applied to study in Wales

  • 1,470 applicants from Northern Ireland applied to study elsewhere in the UK. UCAS does not publish its data for applications to Northern Ireland’s universities

 

Health secretary says government is ‘well on its way’ to delivering 50,000 more nurses

Responding to the figures, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said it was fantastic to see more people applying to study nursing.

‘With over 12,000 more fully qualified nurses working in our NHS compared with last year, we are well on our way to delivering 50,000 more by the end of this parliament,’ he said.

 According to the UCAS figures, a total of 58,550 individuals applied to study nursing in the UK in 2020 (some applicants will have applied to study at universities in more than one country).

The Department of Health and Social Care was contacted for comment in relation to the RCN’s call.


Related material 

UCAS 2020 Cycle Applicant Figures – 30 June Deadline

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