The number of students enrolling on nursing courses in England has fallen for the second year running.
Figures published by Universities and Colleges Admissions Service following the publication of A-level results this week revealed that 21,030 applicants clinched places on university nursing courses, two per cent down on the 2017 figure and eight per cent less than in 2016.
These declining numbers cover the two years after the abolition of the nursing bursary. However, the decline is mainly among applicant numbers from EU countries and England. In the latter case, 15,490 students enrolled this year, down four per cent on last year and 11 per cent from 2016. Among EU students, the numbers were 23 per cent lower than 2016 at 330.
By contrast, the number of applications from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and non-EU countries have risen slightly.
The actual number starting courses is likely to be substantially higher, however, as 7,960 more students have a holding offer for a nursing course, while 14,540 are hoping to get a place through clearing.
Nonetheless, the number of people from England seeking to study nursing is down overall from 40,060 last year to 35,260.
This is despite the fact that the employment opportunities are numerous. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has estimated that there are now around 40,000 vacancies for NHS nurses. It believes the current recruitment and retention crisis is set to get worse, as fewer EU nationals seek to work as nurses in the UK.
Director of nursing policy and practice at the RCN Dame Donna Kinnair said: "It is time to stop tinkering around the edges - the Government’s ad-hoc approach is clearly not working.
"We urgently need comprehensive workforce plans that safeguard recruitment and retention and responds to patient need in each country. This should include a range of incentives to attract more nursing students."
Written by James Puckle
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