Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth has revealed the Labour Party’s manifesto pledge to reinstate NHS student bursaries for nurses.
Applications to study nursing in England are down by 29% since the bursary was axed, and the latest vacancy statistics for England show 43,617 nursing vacancies, leaving 12% of full-time nursing posts now unfilled.
Official figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that 36,810 signed up to study a nursing degree in the country by the June 2019 deadline, a 4% rise from 35,260 in 2018.
However, this represents a slump of 15,030 applications from the 51,830 in 2016, the year in which the bursary was removed.
The Government axing the bursary hit mature students the hardest. While there was a 5% increase in applications from those aged 35 and over compared to last year, the figure is still down 33% from 2016.
Overall, the UK saw a 4% rise in nursing degree applications from 46,240 in 2018 to 48,700 this year – but this is a drop of 23% from 2016.
In an interview with the Mirror, Mr Ashworth promises to ‘be the nurses’ champion because I know how valuable they are. And every patient knows they go the extra mile day in day out. Our NHS is built on its staff, in particular nurses and midwives.’
Mr Ashworth also pledged to ‘reverse cutbacks’ to increase the number of nurses specialising in mental health and learning disability as well as health visitors and community and district nurses.
Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced the the Conservative Party’s pledge of £300m a year to increase the number of non-GP healthcare staff in general practice by an extra 6,000 on top of the 20,000 pledged as part of the GP contract, which will include nurses, physios and pharmacists.