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Nursing student numbers up – but not enough to address staffing crisis, says RCN

College says better financial support is needed, as UCAS data confirm increase on last year
Several young students walking along a corridor. The number of nursing students accepted in England has gone up this year. Picture: iStock

College says better financial support is needed, as UCAS figures confirm increase on last year

More people have been accepted onto undergraduate nursing courses in England this year than last, but the RCN says the figure is still too low to address the current nurse vacancies.

Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) data show that this year 18,250 students from the UK have been accepted onto nursing degree courses in England a 14% increase on 2019s figure of 16,240.

Increase funding for nurse education to address recruitment crisis

UCAS previously revealed that applications for undergraduate nursing courses rose by 16% in England in 2020, to 47,320, up from 40,780 in 2019.

Despite the rise in acceptances, the RCN says this will not be enough to address

College says better financial support is needed, as UCAS figures confirm increase on last year

 iStock
Picture: iStock 

More people have been accepted onto undergraduate nursing courses in England this year than last, but the RCN says the figure is still too low to address the current nurse vacancies.

Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) data show that this year 18,250 students from the UK have been accepted onto nursing degree courses in England – a 14% increase on 2019’s figure of 16,240.

Increase funding for nurse education to address recruitment crisis

UCAS previously revealed that applications for undergraduate nursing courses rose by 16% in England in 2020, to 47,320, up from 40,780 in 2019.

Despite the rise in acceptances, the RCN says this will not be enough to address the 40,000 existing nurse vacancies in England. The college said the government needs to abolish tuition fees for nursing students, introduce maintenance grants and remove the debt accrued by nursing students since they started paying fees in 2017.

The RCN said the government's upcoming spending review should be used to increase funding for nursing higher education and that an immediate announcement could encourage more people to study nursing.  

Accepted on nursing degree courses: UK totals

The total number of students confirmed to study nursing across the UK as of 13 August 2020, according to UCAS data: 

  • 18,250 from England
  • 3,550 from Scotland
  • 1,070 from Northern Ireland
  • 1,390 from Wales

The figures are based on where students live, not where they have been accepted to study in the UK.

 

 ‘The profession is ready to welcome you’
Mike Adams: ‘The profession is ready
to welcome you’

Pressuring the government to value nursing students

RCN director for England Mike Adams said: ‘While we will continue to keep the pressure on government to do more to value our students, anyone considering nursing today can be sure that the profession itself is ready to welcome you in and support you throughout your career.’

The most recent UCAS figures come a day after England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May encouraged A-level students to choose a career in nursing.

As part of NHS England’s ongoing recruitment campaign We Are the NHS, Ms May is targeting the estimated 80,000 students who will be part of the UCAS clearing process, which offers available places on degree courses for those who want to change their plans after A-levels.

Responding to the RCN’s call, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Care said it was committed to increasing nurse numbers.

‘From September, all new and continuing students will also benefit from at least £5,000 a year in free additional support during their studies,’ the spokesperson said.

‘We are committed to delivering 50,000 more nurses and are making good progress, with over 13,500 more nurses working in our NHS compared to last year.’


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