Editorial

‘Pay your own way’ places are no solution

Every year, hundreds of those who apply for pre-registration nursing courses are turned away because of a lack of places. Until now they have had to wait before re-applying in the hope that they will be luckier next time. However, there may be an alternative route into nursing for this group, under plans being developed by universities and NHS trusts… although there is a catch.

Every year, hundreds of those who apply for pre-registration nursing courses are turned away because of a lack of places. Until now they have had to wait before re-applying in the hope that they will be luckier next time. However, there may be an alternative route into nursing for this group, under plans being developed by universities and NHS trusts… although there is a catch.

As Nursing Standard reveals this week, a band of higher education institutions and health service organisations has come together to offer additional places that have not been commissioned in the usual way by Health Education England (HEE). The numbers to date are small, but seem likely to grow. The catch? The students will have to pay their own way, which means stumping up for tuition fees.

Extra places are good news – but the scheme represents a failure of the system

That it should come to this is disappointing to say the least. For years, professional leaders and healthcare commentators have bemoaned the inability of workforce planners to ensure there are enough nurses being trained to meet the needs of the NHS and the independent sector.

Numbers are determined by the resources made available in any given year, which means workforce planning is tied more closely to the political cycle – with booms before an election and busts soon after – than to patient demand. Add high student attrition rates to the mix and failure is inevitable.

The additional places are good news for those who are eminently well qualified to join the profession and have the means to pay their own way, and the trusts involved are to be commended for seeking recruits from this country rather than pillaging staff from overseas. But nonetheless the scheme represents a failure of the system.

HEE has been charged with taking a longer term view, and is still a relatively new organisation. All eyes will be on the number of places it commissions over the next year, and whether it can ensure enough nurses are being trained to end the need to recruit from overseas.

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