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Nursing profession 'in managed decline' as end to bursaries sees numbers keep falling

THE nursing profession has been left in “managed decline,” the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said today, responding to a further drop in student numbers due to bursaries being replaced by loans.

The number of nursing students from England taking university places has fallen by 4 per cent from last year and 11 per cent since 2016 when bursaries were axed, according to data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

The RCN said the decline could jeopardise the future supply of nurses at a time when the NHS is dire need of such staff.

RCN director of nursing policy and practice Donna Kinnair said: “Ministers’ decisions on student funding have left nursing in managed decline.

“Today’s figures should be the wake-up call the government needs to properly address the staffing crisis that’s putting safe and effective patient care at risk.”

Bursaries for student nurses and midwives in England were reduced in 2016, then axed and replaced with loans from August 2017.

Since then, the number of nursing students from England has fallen from 17,460 in 2016 to 16,100 in 2017 and then to 15,490 this year.

The number of mature students from England taking places at UK universities has dropped by 16 per cent since 2016, from 7,450 over-25s to 6,260 this year.

Ms Kinnair added: “We urgently need comprehensive workforce plans that safeguard recruitment and retention and respond to patient need in each country.

“This should include a range of incentives to attract more nursing students.

“Though we will see additional students placed through clearing in the coming weeks, today’s figures mean fewer nurses will enter our understaffed healthcare system in three years time, further jeopardising patient care.”

NHS England launched the biggest recruitment drive in its history in July in a bid to attract children to the nursing profession.

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