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Analysis reveals 12pc drop in nurse training places

Nurse training places have been cut by more than 2,500 in three years, an investigation has revealed, sparking one expert to warn of a “national disaster” in care.

Despite education funding increasing over the last three financial years, the number of nursing places commissioned by the NHS from universities has been reduced by 12.5 per cent.

The reduction means that between 2014 and 2015 there will be several thousand fewer nurses graduating than in previous years, which will be further affected by course drop outs. The trend is in contrast to medical training, with has seen an increase in numbers.

HSJ’s sister title Nursing Times collected data on the number of places on healthcare education courses commissioned by strategic health authorities. Analysis reveals there were 20,092 nursing places funded in 2010-11. This fell sharply to 17,741 in 2011-12 and dropped again to 17,546 during the current financial year, 2012-13.

London saw the biggest drop in nurse training places, falling 16 per cent between 2010-11 and 2012-13. The next biggest drop was the Midlands at 13.8 per cent, followed by the North at 11.5 per cent. The smallest drop was in the South, at 9.4 per cent.

David Green, vice-chancellor of the University of Worcester and former chair of the West Midlands group of universities, said: “We are heading straight for a national disaster in two to three years’ time.”

Professor Green, who has previously written to prime minister David Cameron about cuts in nurse training, said the number of places commissioned by SHAs was based on projections by chief executives who were trying to save money.

He said the numbers were “divorced from reality” and not based on the actual need. “There is going to be a shortage, that’s plain to see,” he said.

The analysis showed the overall multi professional education and training budgets, held by strategic health authorities, increased by 2 per cent between 2010-11 and 2012-13, from £4.78bn to £4.87bn.

The number of medical and dental places commissioned at universities rose by 1 per cent from 45,443 to 45,936 over the period. The number of midwifery training places also rose slightly by 3.6 per cent from 2,488 in 2010-11 to 2,578 in 2012-13. However, the Royal College of Midwives has been campaigning for an extra 5,000 midwives to be recruited to the NHS.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said:  “Decisions about the number of training programmes and how to split the MPET budget between each of the professional groups are taken locally according to the need of the local providers.

“Decisions take account of anticipated future demand in the local health economy, recent information about student retention and levels of graduate employment.”

Readers' comments (7)

  • Any chance of a copy of the article please, it's paywalled on the NT website, but as this is your sister title .....

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  • Sorry, please ignore - have just realised it's free to read the news stuff !

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  • A supplier unhappy that his customers need less? Surely not!

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  • Good news for nursing agencies, though. Maybe we should all get some shares in them.

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  • Spike Humphrey

    And the Department of Health response? "We wash our hands of it." First they starve the SHAs of cash, then they say the impending crisis is purely down to local decisions based on the 'local health economy'. Who are they kidding?

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  • This is so reminiscent of the late 1990s the response in the NHS Plan 2000 and the critical findings reported in an NAO 2002 report on the Education and Training of the Health Professional Workforce - it really doesn't bode well - given that currently trusts are seeking to fill vacancies by fishing in an ever dwindling international pool - how can CEOs be projecting needing less, have they failed to recognise the reality of increasing activity at all levels and the projections of increasing demands?

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  • Here we go again. Making cuts in staffing today, doesn't mean that the demand for newly qualified staff will drop in four to five years when they would join the labour market. This will depend in a large part on the number of retirements and the degree of part-time working.

    These students would be mainly UK citizens who might otherwise be unemployed and therefore claiming benefit, which is bad for the deficit in publikc expenditure. More government discontect.

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