The first ever national workforce plan for the NHS has been approved this afternoon by Health Education England, promising a 9 per cent increase in the number of training places for nurses.
The national plan details how HEE will spend its £5bn education and training budget spread across 110 healthcare professions to ensure the NHS can meet the future demand and service change.
In an attempt to reverse the decline in nurse training and to tackle a growing shortage of nurses on hospital wards HEE will commission 13,228 university places for trainee nurses from 2014-15, an increase of 1,094 on the 2013-14 level.
This could result in 2017 seeing the largest number of qualified nurses ever produced in 2017, according to HEE.
The rise in nurse training comes after the Francis report led to a growing recognition of the need to have sufficient nurse numbers to deliver safe high quality care. HEE has also previously announced it will take a lead in trying to help fill gaps in the nursing workforce through a return to practise campaign.
The national workforce plan also reveals a 2.7 per cent rise in the number of GP training places − an increase of 222. This is in line with the government target of ensuring 50 per cent of medical students become GPs.
Overall there will be no change in the number of medical and dental training places at universities, with 6,970 places commissioned in 2014-15.
The consultant workforce has increased 53 per cent since 2002, with an expected annual increase of 1,800 consultants this year.
Due to the length of medical education and training this increase in the medical consultant workforce is guaranteed until at least 2020, the report says.
Overall there will be a 3 per cent rise in the numbers of allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and dieticians on 2013-14 levels. This includes a 30 per cent increase in the numbers of paramedics.
HEE will also increase the numbers of post-graduate emergency medicine trainee places by 5.6 per cent, a total of 20 new posts in what is known as the acute care common stem. There will be a 2.5 per cent rise in overall emergency medicine training with 1,060 training posts.
Jo Lenaghan, strategy and workforce policy director at HEE, said the changes in nurse numbers demanded by local trusts was not a “knee jerk reaction to Francis but a paradigm shift” in how the workforce and its relation to patient care was now viewed by providers.
She added: “We are trying to make sure that when a patient turns up in a healthcare setting with a need that they are able to be seen by a professional with the skills needed to meet that demand.”
HEE chief executive Ian Cumming said: “This is the first time that a workforce plan for England has been produced. This is the culmination of a huge amount of work.
“It brings together a range of views from our 13 [local education and training boards], local employers and stakeholders.”
Professor Ieuan Ellis is chair of the Council of Deans of Health, which represents all UK university faculties providing education and research for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions.
He said: “We welcome the opportunities we have had this year to give input into the plans and to help reverse of some of the damaging cuts to nursing education made in previous years.”
But he said the workforce planning process needed to give greater consideration to organisations outside the NHS, including social care and education.
Professor Ellis added: “If we are to be confident that plans will meet future patient need, the planning process must involve the providers outside the NHS that employ many thousands of health professionals.”
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