The impact of the drop in acceptances onto nursing courses today must not be underestimated, the RCN has warned, as students discover their grades on A-level results day.
Data published today by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), the organisation which operates applications for UK universities, shows that the number of students accepted onto nursing courses was 21,130, which is 1,560, or 7%, lower than in 2021. Acceptances onto midwifery courses also fell slightly this year, declining by 180 acceptances.
However, the number of acceptances onto nursing courses is still higher than in 2020, with an overall rise since the Covid pandemic. There were also almost 3,000 more acceptances this year than in 2019.
Yet RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said the figures need to look ‘even stronger’ to address the current staffing crisis, with the latest official vacancy data revealing 38,972 full-time equivalent nursing vacancies as of March 2022. This also follows an 8% fall in applications to nursing programmes this year.
She added: ‘Sadly, they have headed in the wrong direction this year. The impact of this drop in acceptances to nursing courses, along with the drop in applications this year, must not be underestimated. It will only add to the growing nursing workforce crisis.
‘Nursing students in higher education should have access to adequate financial support for tuition and the cost of living. This would encourage more to join nurse education. Our nursing students must be able to prioritise their education without heavy debts and worries.’
In England, 16,000 were accepted onto nursing courses and 2,790 onto midwifery courses. In Scotland there were 3,340 acceptances to nursing courses and 260 to midwifery courses. In Wales 900 and 130 respectively and Norther Ireland accepted 680 to nursing courses and 80 to midwifery courses.
In addition, the figures showed the number of male students accepted onto nursing courses increased slightly or the third year in a row. There were 2,290 male students accepted onto nursing courses this year, 940 of which were 35 and over.
Midwifery course acceptances also declined amidst lower A-level results, falling to 3,260 acceptances in total. This is a slight drop from 2020 but still higher than in 2019.
In 2021, acceptances onto nursing courses hit a high of 22,690, which was up almost by 2,000 acceptances from the year before, amid a peak of university acceptances across all courses with 435,430 applicants accepted in total, almost 20,000 higher than in 2020 when 415,600 were accepted.
While the proportion of A and A*s awarded in this years A-level results has fallen this year for the first time since lockdown, Health Education England chief executive Navina Evans has invited students to consider a career in the NHS.
Students are still able to apply for courses via clearing and NHS apprenticeships or volunteering opportunities remain open
‘Try not to panic if you did not get the results you were expecting,’ said Ms Evans. ‘With over 1.3 million employees working in the NHS, every individual comes from a different background with a range of valuable skills and experiences.’
‘I am incredibly honoured to be part of a multi-professional organisation, no matter what your interests or aspirations are, we’ve got just the role for you.’
Maria Caulfield, minister of state for health, said: ‘A-Level results day is always a big day across the country for thousands of students and their loved ones, and it’s fantastic to see more people choosing a career in nursing.
‘These nurses of the future will help us boost the workforce, with over 10,200 more nurses in the NHS compared to last year – and we are well over halfway towards meeting our commitment to recruiting 50,000 more nurses by 2024.’