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Almost 1,500 nurses lost this year due to unfilled training places

The equivalent of 1,446 fully trained nurses have been lost due to major barriers to studying nursing, according to a new report. 

The Open University (OU) analysis, entitled 'Breaking Barriers to Nursing', found that 6% of nursing degree places available in the current academic year went unfilled.

This translates to a loss of 1,446 nurses that would have been produced had these places been filled.

As part of their analysis, they identified numerous barriers to entry that contributed to the unfilled training slots.

Money was a major deterrent, with a third of those considering the profession put off by financial demands such as living away from home and student loans following the abolishment of the bursary. 

Significant barriers also included stress and pressure on the job (24%), working hours (24%) and travel (11%). Fewer than 80 higher education institutions offer pre-registration degrees, forcing students to either move away from home or commute to attend lectures. 

One in 10 (11%) were put off by university entry requirements. Of those, 42% held the Maths and English GCSEs required by Nursing and Midwifery Council official guidelines for prospective nurses, but nine out of 10 (91%) higher education institutions go beyond this, requiring three C-grade A-levels for entry on to the course.

Some of these issues – such as travel, money and workload - continue to affect current students, which they say may go some way to explaining the high dropout rate of one in four (24%), amounting to 6,740 students from each intake. 

The analysis concludes that if the NHS reduced these barriers to entry, an additional 10,100 nurses could be provided over 10 years and the forecasted nursing deficit of 108,000 nurses reduced by 13%. 

Solutions put forward by The OU included embracing technology to increase quality and flexibility of learning, tackling negative perceptions of nursing, giving nurses the opportunity to earn while they learn, and reducing university entry requirements.   

Sally Boyle, head of school in the Faculty of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at The Open University said the number of people being put off from a nursing career is ‘devastating’.  

She continued: ‘There are a number of barriers to studying nursing that can be easily addressed if Higher Education Institutions, healthcare employers and the government work together to take advantage of available technologies and initiatives, such as flexible technology-enabled learning and apprenticeships. By ensuring that the maximum possible number of nurses are training and registering each year, the sector will have better access to the nurses it urgently needs.’