NHS England chief asks universities to increase intake of student nurses

There has been a surge in interest in the nursing profession in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the chief executive of NHS England feels that the number of nursing degree places should be expanded to meet this increased demand. Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England has opined that universities in England must increase their annual intake of student nurses to meet the growing gap between the number of clinical placements available and the Nursing degree courses on offer.

At present, while there are already 3 generations of nurses helping with the influx of patients due to the pandemic, in the future many more nurses would be needed. In his speech on International Nurses’ Day, Sir Simon appealed to prospective student nurses, saying: “This is an opportunity not just to thank our current nurses but also to invite bright and brilliant and committed people across the country to consider nursing as a career.”

Statistics show the NHS Health Careers website has seen a 220% rise in students expressing an interest to take up nursing. 8,000 additional clinical placements are now available for nurses with an additional £10m of funding. This autumn, as a result, there were expected to be 4,000 more placements available than degree courses.

English chief nursing officer Ruth May, in support of this campaign, says: “I hope people, young and older, will be inspired by the amazing response of our profession to the global coronavirus pandemic and my message to them is: join us.”

At the start of this pandemic, there were nearly 40,000 vacancies in England alone. As long as the pandemic continues, there will be challenges around student placements and the provision of support in practice, and new ways should be found to address these challenges.

 It was felt that the best way to close the gap in nursing vacancies is through training and education, and more needed to be done to grow the nursing workforce especially in these distressing times. One way to do this, according to the RCN, is to scrap tuition fees for nurses in England.

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