Sir Keith Pearson, chair of Health Education England (HEE) called for “ready made” interventions to correct any further under recruitment of students for nursing programmes.
Figures from HEE show that adult nursing programmes recruited 299 fewer student nurses than was expected in the third quarter, representing an under recruitment of 2.1%.
The recruiting shortfall follows analysis from the Health Foundation using UCAS data, which shows that 57,000 students applied for 21,450 nurse training places in 2015.
Speaking at the HEE board meeting, Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, HEE’s director of nursing said the shortfall “is something that we don’t fully understand”.
She said: “Although we do get lots of information saying that there’s more applications than commissions in reality we’ve rarely been able to fill all 20,000 commissions across all parts of the country because it is very dependent on location and where people chose to go.”
She added that HEE needs to “push” higher education institutes to find out why they have not filled their places and what their plans are to fill them in the future.
“And that’s work for us moving forward because it has always been a fine balance trying to fill 20,000 commissions,” she said.
Nicki Latham, executive director of performance and development at HEE, attributed the under recruitment to higher educational institutes maintaining a high calibre of student, for which Sir Keith Pearson commended them.
She said: “The feedback from this area, particularly where we’ve had a reduction in the numbers that we thought we’d get, is that we didn’t have the quality of students to get on to the course.”
The HEE budget for 2016/17 committed £256,762 to solving the short supply of registered nurses as part of the national Growing Nursing Numbers agenda.
Since 2014, the programme has successfully embedded 39 “return to practice” programmes in 39 higher education institutes and will educate an estimated 1,474 students.
HEE also committed £200,000 to the development and implementation of the new nurse associate role.