- 23 February 2021
- 3 min read
Is The Record Demand For UK Nursing Degrees A Turning Point?Subscribe To Advice
The coronavirus pandemic has seen a record number of applications to study nursing at UK universities.
UCAS figures show 60,130 applicants for nursing degrees by the January application deadline this year.
According to statistics from UCAS, applications for nursing courses have risen by almost a third.
There were increases in applications across all age ranges in the UK, with a record 16,560 applications from those of school leaving age, an increase of 27% from last year.
Also, over 10,000 people aged 35 or more applied to study nursing for the first time this year - an increase of 39% on 2020.
But will this surge in interest in nursing as a career be enough to undo some of the damage inflicted by governments, whether by accident or design, over the past years?
Care Minister Helen Whately declared: " We're another step closer to delivering 50,000 more nurses for our NHS and providing better healthcare for everyone."
Boris Johnson had, in 2019 pledged 50,000 more nurses for the NHS by 2024 - but admitted only 31,000 would be newly qualified nurses. The remaining number would be as a result of better staff retention.
Will the government have to address the ongoing issue of nursing pay in order to have any chance of hitting their staff retention goals?
This is the second year in a row that the numbers of applicants has risen. In 2019 there was a 6.4% increase in people accepted onto nursing and midwifery courses in England compared to 2018.
Is this the beginning of a trend, or do you think once the pandemic passes, numbers will revert back to more normal levels? The Royal College of Nursing has previously warned there is a widespread nursing shortage across the NHS, and nursing leaders say the increase is still insufficient to fill the tens of thousands of NHS vacancies.
And we've reported on the staffing crisis many times here on Nurses.co.uk, and run a survey that showed UK nurses believe the staffing crisis puts patient safety at risk.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the NHS had a shortage of around 40,000 nurses.
Will the increasing backlog of non-COVID related illnesses to deal with mean that any new staff will only be able to have a sticking-plaster effect, rather than constitute a systemic improvement?
Mike Adams, a director of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is a welcome boost in applications but follows a number of years of decline since the removal of government support for student nurses’ tuition fees and living costs.”
He went on to say: “This rise in applications only takes numbers back to where they were five years ago and is still not at the scale needed. More must be done to close the gap on those that have been lost in that time." Do you think the government should be more honest about the demands both an increasing and comparatively ageing population have on health services, and how they are resourced?
Student nurses and midwives starting courses from September will benefit from new guaranteed, additional support of at least £5,000 a year to help with their living costs, which they won’t be required to pay back.
Is this enough, or do you think the government should reinstate the nursing bursary as it existed up until 2015, when it was worth up to £16,454 a year, and always included a minimum of £10,000 – which included paying student fees?
Let us know what you think in the comments.
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