Universities and hospitals will not be forced to take extra nursing students this year under Labour’s plan to increase trainee numbers by 1,000, HSJ has been told.

However, universities and hospitals that take extra students will receive full funding, and could receive an additional premium in recognition of the short notice.  

Labour leader Ed Miliband is due to say later today that if Labour forms the next government, the party will immediately ask universities to reopen admissions to nursing courses in September.

The plan is part of Labour’s pledge to increase the number of nurses in the NHS by 20,000 over the course of the next Parliament.

Lizzie Jelfs, director of the Council of Deans of Health, which represents nursing schools, told HSJ it had been in discussion with Labour over the proposals.

She said: “We understand from Labour that universities wouldn’t be forced to do this. In the detail I have seen it says [the party will be] making funding available for up to 1,000 places.

“Places will be fully funded both for the university and for the practice placements. A lot of this is about capacity and partnership between universities and placement providers.”

The council has also said it is committed to working with the NHS to fill extra places with suitable candidates.

In addition to the funding for universities, hospitals and other placement providers receive a tariff for students of £3,175 per student adjusted by the market forces factor for each trust, which modifies tariff prices to reflect the variable costs of doing business in different parts of the country.

Labour would ensure this funding was made available to trusts and universities this year, HSJ understands. Sources close to the plans have told HSJ the party could try to incentivise providers with additional money. It is unclear at this stage how much extra funding would be available.

HSJ understands the plan for 1,000 places will include all four branches of nursing: mental health, learning disability, children’s and adult nursing.

It remains unclear how many universities or providers will be willing to take on more students. Issues are likely to include the capacity of organisations to provide places and the availability of candidates at short notice to join the three year nursing degree.

Dame Jessica Corner, chair of the Council of Deans, said: “We’re all currently living with the legacy of short sighted cuts to the number of nursing students. Although it will be a stretch to recruit students at short notice, if places are made available then we will work with the NHS to get as many suitable candidates as possible onto courses.”

If it wins the election Labour will call a summit with universities and other stakeholders to discuss the details of its plans and how to achieve its targets.

Health Education England’s national workforce plan, published in December, predicts existing nurse training places will deliver an additional 13,000 full time equivalent adult nurses by 2019, with a net increase of 5,641 employed adult nurses by 2019.

Mr Miliband will tell an audience at Manchester Metropolitan University: “We will start to bring in resources from the mansion tax and tobacco levy not in 2019, 2018, or in 2017 but in our first year in office.

“We will use that money to support the NHS with our rescue plan now, with an emergency round of nurse recruitment, funding for 1,000 extra training places this year to begin easing frontline pressures as soon as we can, to begin bringing down the spiralling bill for agency staff, to begin opening the doors of places just like this to more talented young people.”