More than 25% of student nurses in the UK do not finish the course, at a cost of more than £98m a year, it has been claimed.
Some 26.3% due to finish in 2006 left early, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act for Nursing Standard magazine.
Of 25,101 students who started either degrees or diplomas, 6,603 did not finish their programmes.
And the problem has worsened since 2004 when the attrition rate was 24.8%, according to the magazine.
The study took in figures from all universities teaching nursing between 2002 and 2006, excluding those not running preregistration degree and diploma courses.
Data was collected for students beginning courses in 2003 and completing in 2006. The same information was asked for students starting four-year degrees in 2002.
Only the University of Southampton and London South Bank University failed to submit details, it said. Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said the figures were "shocking".
He said: "This wastage is letting down taxpayers, patients and would-be nurses.
"Either they are recruiting people who aren't suitable for the course or they are putting off keen candidates - either way it is a disgrace.
"Every penny of this money is urgently needed for healing the sick, so it should not be squandered like this."
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How can we keep our student nurses? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"I agree with a lot of the comments made, I am struggling financially as a student nurse and I am working all the hours I can on top of my course just to pay the bills. With the credit crunch and companies reluctant to lend, credit cards etc are not an option for me, in fact one bank closed one of my credit cards when the credit crunch was first announced and I am
still trying to pay off the balance. I was hoping for a first class
honours, but with the hours of paid work I have to do, I will be lucky to get through the assignments and exams as I just cannot spare the time to do revision. I can see myself having to defer in order to work, so that I can save money in order to complete my course and qualify. It is heartbreaking. As I have loans from before my course, it makes it harder for me
to access any discretionary funds as they expect me to reduce my outgoings to these first before helping me, if I did that I would be in debt or the rest of my life! I am not joking" - Marcus, West Midlands
"I think we are never going to keep the high percentage of student nurses, the biggest reason being quite a high number felt being bullied and made to feel incompetent when they ask some placement mentors for their time. A lot of student nurses I have spoke to have dropped out of the courses mainly for this reason. I think student nurses should receive more support on placements. A good student nurse is one that receives the time needed" - Lyn Metcalfe, Belfast
"Its simple! Pay the student nurses working 37.5 hours a week (including nights) a wage. I don't know how the government expect student nurses with children to feed and childcare to pay to live on £540 a month. It's silly, other types of students are able to apply for loans, some up to £21,000 a year and they don't have to work together with study so why not nurses?" - Sarah, Manchester
"Do not let us live in dire poverty. Pay us enough to eat, pay rent and get to practice. I have just packed it in, cannot cope with the stress." - Jane Elliott, Yorkshire
"I think that everything that has been said on here pretty much sums up the problems facing student nurses. I am coming to the end of my second year on a three-year degree course and I have come to the point where I don't think I can carry on any longer. I have lived in poverty since starting my degree, scratching a living on £600 a month, and I am one of the lucky ones, many on the degree get nothing. A particular worry for me has been that throughout the course the emphasis has been firmly placed on the academic side of training leaving me feeling worryingly underprepared for practice. The amount of academic work we have had to complete has been ridiculous and has left little time to concentrate on the valuable practical experience we receive. For example, over Christmas we were on placement with only Christams day and boxing day off and we had four assignments to be in (two a week before Christams and two a week after and this is not including presentations etc that we were expected to complete) totalling 11,000 words. How on earth can you get the most out of your placement under those circumstances? None of us students took anything of value away from our placements on that occasion as all our thoughts were with our assignments (which were primarily totally unrelated to nursing in my opinion, what a waste of valuable training time!)" - Ellen, Sheffield
"The busary needs to be more. I am ill with the struggle of the first year of the nursing degree and cannot imagine I can do another 2 years like the first. I am back on placement tomorrow. Have no food in my house and no money to travel there tomorrow. I live on 550 a month and its impossible and makes you stressed. I will end up in a hospital bed I guarantee. It's crazy." - Emma, West Yorkshire
"All the student nurses I have come into contact with recently have been demoralised early on in their training regarding issues such as: lack of jobs at the end of training (with some qualified nurses accepting HCA posts after graduation as the only post available); shortage of staff leading to nurse's stress and a feeling that care given is less than ideal and falling short of expectations; poor pay compared to other graduates leading to problems repaying student loans and little hope of a comparable standard of living in the future." - Jen, Cheshire
"I think that all the comments below have great validity and, most especially, those heartfelt comments from the anonymous source relating to their experiences of dire poverty during their own education programme. Health authority commissioners need to take this particular sort of feedback seriously in their workforce planning with the universities. The overall emphasis needs to change towards an examination of the lack of organisational structures that better enable student success as opposed to student attrition. There needs to be an overhaul of student financial support and better policing of entry standards to ensure new entrants are appropriate. Here the universities have a lead role (together with their NHS colleagues) in quality assuring the overall potential of new recruits and in lobbying for better financial support for students. It is no use financially incentivising student recruitment for universities at the expense of the NHS. In addition, more effective local partnerships between universities and the NHS trusts are needed to monitor student/mentor performance and to ensure both are successful in practice. Without this sort of strategic approach any piecemeal efforts to redress the current situation may well vanish into the ever widening chasm that has continues to widen between the universities and the NHS." - Kevin Corbett, London
"By ensuring they are supported (not bullied, not left to flounder) throughout their training - additionally a strong political mindset within the profession maintains the petty minded back stabbings that are inherent within this field of work. A lot can be learned from a traditional style training instead of fresh faced school children deciding it is not within their remit to provide basic nursing care. They should be required to have at least one year basic nursing care experience." - Name and address supplied
"More help and support with coursework and better structure around timetables. Accepting people that care and have a passion for the job and have common sense would be a good start." - Kim French, Wigan
"We were discussing this yesterday - when we were recruited as nurse in the 1970s you had to have good GCSEs and A-levels, now you can come in with just an NVQ course or other direct access course which is no equivalent. We are recruiting people who are keen but cannot interpret some of the theroretical stuff and this is what causes attrition. Perhaps by only having the degree course not the diploma the access requirements will be stringent and attrition less." - Kirsty Armstrong, Lecturer/Practitioner London
"Nurse training has lost its way. It appears that some people are commencing nurse training and have little comprehension as to what the job entails. Furthermore many students become frustrated about the lack of practical hands on experience and too much theoretical information that appears to have little relation to what goes on in practice. Having trained as a nurse in a traditional manner, and subsequently completed two
degrees in midwifery and community nursing, I see the advantage of academic knowledge but maybe initial training should be more practically based and then followed up if the student wanted with academic input. I thoroughly enjoyed my student nurse training it was invaluable, the skills aquired then have helped in all aspects of my life but I am not sure how, without such excellent basic training, how well I would have fared in my later roles. Many young girls entering nursing have just left school and are keen to do something very different, too much academic study in the first year may be putting many of them off."- Alison Dobson, Warwickshire
"As a univerity lecturer, the key reason given by student nurses and student midwives on their exit interviews to why they are not finishing their training programmes is financial. If they are on the degree programme they have a means tested bursary, which for many is no money at all. If they are on the diploma programme they have the DOH bursary which is approximately about £5,000 per year, which works out at £400 a month. The students have to pay for their accommodation and living expenses, have to travel to and from work, have to work the NHS shift patterns as well as attend university full time. So they do not have any opportunities to get a part-time job to supplement their income like other university students. Some university students studying a non-healthcare degree may only have to attend university for two or three days a week and work the rest of the time. Many of the mature students with children have experienced childcare problems due to the unsocialable hours that they have to work and the high cost of child care. Currently, student teachers are offered £6,000 pa while undertaking their degree. Student nurses and midwives receive nothing unless their are on the diploma course and many institutions are thinking of moving over to only offering degree programmes! If we really want to keep our students than they have to some form financial help." - Pak Hung, West Midlands
"Pre-nurse training experience would benefit both students and colleges ( savings on courses not completed). Students often enter nursing with an idealistic view of nusing the sick and are needy. The REAL world of nursing is often a culture shock to students. The main incentive to encourage students to finish their courses has to be the knowledge that there will be full time jobs for all new nurses,which at the moment is not guaranteed." - llynn Szczupak, Dunninc Road Surgery
"I feel that the type of person should be vetted more carefully. Nursing could never suit everyone and the old feeling that nursing is a vocation is still very true. When my elderly mother-in-law was in hospital I was horrified by the lack of TLC she was given. When I trained this was a mantra by which we worked. Now the care assistants are the ones expected to do the day-to-day caring, certainly not the nurses! I also felt that the quality of education was very poor. They were unaware even of the most basic conditions. A lot would never have the academic abilities needed for this profession!!!!" - Helen Smith, Barnet
"Well, I have a message for Matthew Elliot of the TaxPayers Alliance. I completed a nursing degree nine years ago as a widowed mature student with three children, and towards the end of my training I was so poor I had to rely on nursing charity donations, otherwise I would have had to have thrown in the towel. I depended on food handouts from friends and family, and my children suffered because of my poverty. I was faced with not being able to afford the transport to attend placements and university lectures especially throughout my dissertation, and although I was initually heading for a first class honours, ended up with a 2.2 because of financial difficulties and the hard slog. I had to take out maximum student loan, and to this date do not even earn enough to start paying it off! I am angry and feel that the last decade has been a waste of time as I am still suffering from the episode of desparate poverty I faced while training. I will never earn as much as comparative professions, and have no hope of ever now owning my own home. Why doesn't he screw his neck back in and look at the reasons for the high drop out? I am not surprised at the high drop out, I am just amazed it is so low - it is worse now than when I trained! Once student nurses see what it is really like on the wards, with lack of staff and situations as described by the comment above, they see sense and switch to another profession with better conditions and rewards. Maybe if he got angry at the way the funding for training is handled, (and I also agree with the comment above about traditional style training) he would instead get angry with a government that is full of spin and have allowed our NHS to flounder under a facade of all gloss and no substance." - Name and address supplied
"I think nurse training should be a combination of theory and practice on a rolling three monthly basis. This would allow for the student to better absorb information and knowledge to put that specific knowledge into practice while it is still fresh in memory and better able to be consolidated. Monitoring advice and support would be more easily delivered to the individual nurse which may motivate, instill pride in the profession and improve retention." - V Henry, London
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