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Ten years to solve nurse staffing crisis, says leading nurse academic

It will take at least ten years to resolve the staffing crisis in the nursing workforce, says the head of the Council of Deans of Health.
Jessica Corner

It will take at least ten years to resolve the staffing crisis in the nursing workforce, according to a leading nurse academic.

Council of Deans of Health chair Dame Jessica Corner said that the government's new funding plans for nursing education were risky but alternatives were not viable.

Dame Jessica Corner says the governments plan to cut funding for bursaries is risky but it could end the boom and bust approach to nurse training

Speaking at the Queens Nursing Institute conference on Tuesday (20 September), Professor Corner emphasised the severity of the UK's nurse staffing shortages.

We are in the middle of the biggest crisis for the nursing workforce and the care sector in our memories, she said.

It has been ten years in the making and it will take more than ten years to resolve. It has been exacerbated by the EU referendum

It will take at least ten years to resolve the staffing crisis in the nursing workforce, according to a leading nurse academic.

Council of Deans of Health chair Dame Jessica Corner said that the government's new funding plans for nursing education were ‘risky’ but alternatives were not viable.


Dame Jessica Corner says the government’s plan
to cut funding for bursaries is ‘risky’ but it could
end the boom and bust approach to nurse training

Speaking at the Queen’s Nursing Institute conference on Tuesday (20 September), Professor Corner emphasised the severity of the UK's nurse staffing shortages.

‘We are in the middle of the biggest crisis for the nursing workforce and the care sector in our memories,’ she said.

‘It has been ten years in the making and it will take more than ten years to resolve. It has been exacerbated by the EU referendum result.’

Boom and bust 

Professor Corner said there had been a wholesale failure of the ‘boom and bust’ model of commissioning training places according to available government funds.

She said continuing in the same way had not been an option.

‘If this change hadn’t happened, Health Education England [HEE] told us there would have been a 15% cut in funding to universities – the whole thing was a car crash in the making.’

From 2017, university nursing degrees will open up to a free market environment, with no restrictions on numbers from government, but students will for the first time lose their bursaries, pay tuition fees, and have access to loans.

Professor Corner said: ‘This has been very controversial but I think we need to step back from that for a minute and say actually maybe this could be the right way to change some of those boom and bust nurse numbers.’

She added that health students were the group most commonly seeking hardship funds from universities, an issue Nursing Standard exclusively reported on in June.

Criticism of CPD cuts

Professor Corner also roundly criticised  funding cuts to continued professional development (CPD) budgets for nurses, which she said came ‘without warning and little evidence of strategic planning at a national level’.

A new report by the Council of Deans of Health warns nurses and midwives are facing ‘deep cuts’ to the levels of funding available to enhance their education and training.

The report states in some regions CPD funding has seen cuts of up to 45%. In response, Health Education England said CPD is primarily an employer responsibility and that the report was a 'misleading' portrayal of the extent of its involvement in CPD.

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