Thu. Mar 21st, 2024

Sharp drop in nursing students sparks alarm

By Caterina Magnoni Mar 8, 2024
SJ Objio/Unsplash

In the face of persistent shortages affecting the NHS, a steep decline in nursing applications threatens to exacerbate an already precarious healthcare landscape.

Thirty one thousand people applied for nursing courses in the UK for the 2024-25 academic year – a 32.5% decrease since 2021, when the number of nurse student applicants was 46,040, according to data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

“The challenges and barriers aspiring nurses face have evolved in recent years, affecting future applications and this is due to funding. Nurses are not appreciated enough by the government.

“The NHS is overworked, there’s not enough staff and long shift hours cause burnout among healthcare workers. Over the years, strikes have taken place, yet no changes have been made,” said Firoza Amin, a third-year children’s nursing student.  

On February 23, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) issued a statement about the alarming data, asking the government to use the 2024 Spring Budget to introduce emergency support for student nurses.

In a letter to the Health Secretary, RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen warned that the decline in applicants risked causing a cascading effect with lower numbers graduating and becoming registered nurses.

“The consistent decline in the number of nursing students marks a pressing patient safety concern,” concluded Cullen.

Among the key recommendations put forth by the RCN are initiatives aimed at boosting recruitment efforts and enhancing support for nursing students.

“Nursing is undeniably one of the most rewarding and versatile professions available, offering a wealth of opportunities for personal and professional growth. It’s concerning to witness a year-on-year decline in interest among prospective students, especially in the wake of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan,” said Heather Kincaid, senior lecturer in critical care at Kingston University.

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