Nursing has seen the greatest decrease in full-time undergraduate applications of all subjects for the 2017 cycle, a UCAS report published on Wednesday (1 February) has revealed.
There has been a 23% drop in applicants making at least one choice as nursing since last year, the report showed.
It said: ‘The subject experiencing the most notable decrease in applicants is nursing. Applicants from England making at least one choice to nursing fell by 23% to 33,810 in 2017.
'Most applicants to nursing are over 19 years old and English applicants from this age group decreased by between 16% and 29%. English 18 year old nursing applicants fell by 10%.’
The report comes six months after the Department of Health announced that it was removing bursaries for student nurses and midwives and replacing them with loans beginning in 2017.
Unison head of health, Christina McAnea, said: ‘The government said replacing bursaries with loans would bring in an additional 10,000 nurses. Instead the exact opposite has happened.
‘With applications down nearly a quarter, ministers must accept they got this wrong and rethink this disastrous policy.
'There’s likely to be a similar drop in applications for other NHS students, which begs the question as to who will be caring for us all in the future.'
There were 9,990 fewer applications to study nursing in 2017 than in 2016. That is, 33,810 compared to 43,8000.
'Worst fears' confirmed
RCN chief executive and general secretary, Janet Davies, said: ‘We warned the Government the removal of student funding would see a sharp drop in nursing applications.
'These figures confirm our worst fears. The nursing workforce is in crisis and if fewer nurses graduate in 2020 it will exacerbate what is already an unsustainable situation.’
She added: 'The outlook is bleak – fewer EU nurses are coming to work in the UK following the Brexit vote, and by 2020 nearly half the workforce will be eligible for retirement.
‘With 24,000 nursing vacancies in the UK, the Government needs to take immediate action to encourage more applicants by reinstating student funding and investing in student education – the future of nursing, and the NHS, is in jeopardy.’