Political parties’ future manifestos should commit to addressing a decline in the uptake of nursing courses, the Council of Deans of Health has urged.
The body – which represents 105 UK learning faculties engaged in education and research for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions – has called on political parties and candidates standing in the next general election to make boosting healthcare student recruitment and retention a policy priority, as part of a new policy paper.
Ed Hughes, chief executive of the Council of Deans of Health said that as party conference season began, this was ‘a timely moment to launch the council’s policy priorities for the general election expected next year’.
‘Crucial to any party seeking to form a government will be questions around the sustainability of the NHS and how to deliver the growth in the healthcare workforce set out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan,’ he added.
The council’s suggested policy priorities also include addressing the growing shortfall in healthcare educators and researchers, expanding and diversifying placements for healthcare students, and reviewing the overlapping layers of regulation in healthcare education.
According to the council, the different paths in practice, academia and research are not well understood within nursing, and high financial and emotional costs faced by healthcare students contribute to drop-out rates.
To address this, the council has called for a ‘cross-departmental joint approach’ to improve financial and pastoral support for healthcare students.
The body has also called for a focused advertising campaign highlighting the various career routes and opportunities offered by healthcare courses in order to bolster numbers of nursing students.
‘As the parties come together to discuss their approaches, the council will be ensuring our members’ voices are heard,’ Mr Hughes added.
He noted that the priorities set out in the council’s paper were ‘essential to delivering the sustainable NHS workforce our country needs’.
The paper comes after it was revealed that the number of students accepted onto undergraduate nursing courses across the UK was down 12% in a year.