Figures released from UCAS, the universities admission services show that there has been another drop in nursing applicants. According to the Nursing Times, the number of people from England applying to train as a nurse has fallen for a second year in a row, dropping by a further 13% compared with the same point in 2017. This is on top of a 23% reduction last year, meaning applicants are now down by around a third since the government in England opted to end free education for student nurses and instead switch to a loans system. As student nurses’ & newly qualified nurses’, we are acutely aware of the poor staffing situation on our placement areas. Whilst the numbers of aspiring nurses still outnumber the total nursing places available, we need to be seeing more training places becoming available, and not applications reduced.
Whilst it is not yet clear if those applicants are only going to well known nursing universities within the field of adult and child health. The reason for this assumption is due to it being reported this time last year that a London university was forced to cancel its undergraduate learning disability nursing course because too few suitable people applied.
Unfortunately, across the country, being short staffed means that learning opportunity’s for students and NQN’s become limited. It means unsafe staffing ratio’s are becoming more widely common place. This crisis will not just effect the National Health Service alone. This shortage will effect the private sector as well. It is clear that the nursing workforce is already desperately short. Our fear is that if the Government allows this situation to continue to deteriorate we situation will become untenable. We could essentially be a country without nurses.
With that being said, currently the numbers of aspiring nurses still outnumber the total nursing places available. However, if we keep seeing this reduction of nursing applicants, we will see less nurses. This issue is exacerbated by fewer nurses coming from the European Union who are coming to work in the UK following the Brexit vote. On top of that, information from the Royal College of Nursing show that half the workforce will be eligible for retirement by 2020.
The future of nursing and healthcare in the UK is in jeopardy. Given the reduction of applicants and the mitigating factors around Brexit and that hardworking Nurses are due to retire in a few years. Collectively, we fear for the future of Nursing. With that, we are not giving up. We call upon the government to bring back the Nursing bursary so that nursing can take the best and the brightest. After all, research has shown that degree educated nurses can reduce hospital deaths and nurses are the backbone of Health Care in this country.
(Dann Gooding – student nurse)