A cap on nursing numbers, which forces hopsitals to look overseas and use expensive agencies, will be scrapped it was announced in today’s spending review.
Chancellor George Osborne also said there would be loans for trainee nurses instead of grants and that 10,000 new training places will be created.
While the overall settlement for the NHS was welcomed by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary said that student nurses shouldn’t be the ones having to pay for it.
“The Government has finally recognised that there is a nursing shortage and a promise of 10,000 extra health professionals in this Parliament will be a boost to the health service.”
However, she added that the proposals will saddle future generations of student nurses with even more debt and financial pressures and unless nurses’ pay improves, many graduates will never be in a position to pay their loans back.
Davies said: “The ring-fence to nursing student funding has been removed and a precious link between the NHS and its nurses is potentially at risk, making it harder to plan for the future workforce.”
Mental health was also mentioned in the spending review as he announced £600m aditional funding to increase access to services such as talking therapies and perinatal care.
Overall, the NHS budget will rise from its current level of £101 to £120bn by 2020/21 and the Department of Health’s Whitehall budget will face a 25% cut to help meet the required £22bn efficiency savings set out by the NHS chief executive Simon Stevens in his Five Year Forward View.
Osborne said there would be a £1.5bn increase to the Better Care Fund, which was set up to help with the integration of health and social care.
He will allow local authorities to raise council tax by 2% as long as the money raised is spent solely on social care, recognising that social care cuts put an increased pressure on health care services. This is expected to raise £2bn.
The chancellor avoided making controversial cuts to working tax credits and the police and said that the country was on track to achieve a surplus of £10.1bn in 2020/21 rising to £14.7bn in 2021.
Osborne said he would borrow £8bn less than predicted and the government was therefore “fixing the roof while the sun is shining”.
Overall a limit of £756bn will be set for public expenditure rising to £857bn in 2020/21.