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Universities must make use of government funding to boost nursing numbers, says CNO for England

England's chief nursing officer has called on universities to expand the number of nursing student places offered, as part of her drive to improve nurse numbers

England's chief nursing officer has called on universities to expand the number of nursing student places offered, as part of her drive to improve nurse numbers

In an exclusive interview with Nursing Standard, Jane Cummings said she also wanted to see more men in nursing and to improve nurse well-being to aid retention.


Picture: John Houlihan

The Commons health and social care committee recently called on nurses to get proper breaks to help stem the number of nurses leaving the profession. The cross-party MPs asked Professor Cummings to write to all NHS chief nurses to check staff are not routinely staying late to complete handovers.

Ahead of the game

Although the official response to the report from the Department of Health and Social Care has not yet been finalised, Professor Cummings said: ‘We have already, through NHS England Commissioning for Quality and Innovation, put financial support into making sure we do tackle health and well-being through access to things like mental health support.'

She added: ‘Worklife balance is important and all of those things play into making sure people feel valued and supported. So, yes, being able to have a cup of tea, a break and to take some time out, is really important on a busy shift.’

The chief nurse has recruited 165 front-line nurses and midwives to act as ambassadors to improve the image of nursing for prospective healthcare professionals and those already working in the NHS.

Making use of government funding

Professor Cummings acknowledged the current difficulty in recruiting mental health and learning disability nursing students.

But she said if England is to meet the government's aim to increase the overall number of nurses in training by 25%, universities need to increase intake and make use of enhanced government funding for different placement opportunities.

‘A good example is, there aren't very many clinical placements in general practice. We want to see more, so it is part of the NHS England general practice ten point plan’.

General practice nurse Lucy Eldon is one of the new nurse ambassadors. She said the independent nature of GP surgeries had limited the number of placements offered in the past but an ageing workforce has forced a rethink.

‘We’ve suddenly had a bit of a panic about how can we get more people in,' Ms Eldon said.

‘So now we are saying we need to get students in for placements.'

Help for the future

Ms Eldon believes primary care placements are an opportunity to increase students’ understanding of the various nursing roles, which will help them regardless of what specialty they later choose.

‘It’s not just about making more practice nurses, because all nursing is short, it’s about students understanding what a practice nurse is, which will help them if they later work in a hospital and discharge patients.’

NHS England’s director of nursing for transformation Paul Vaughan said Health Education England has now made it easier to create GP placements and NHS England has invested £1 million to increase general practice placements by 15% this year, and 20% next year.


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