Applications to study nursing in England have increased slightly from last year but are still down by 29% since the bursary was axed, the latest data reveals.
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.
The news comes as health secretary Matt Hancock said he was considering incentives to encourage students into struggling areas of nursing.
But chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Dame Donna Kinnair warned that financial incentives would not be enough and that more support must be offered.
Commenting on the figures, she said: ‘We need to see a much bigger increase if we are to have the number of nurses we need to sustain health and care services and give patients the care they deserve.
‘At the moment, with experienced nurses leaving the workforce due to the pressures generated by the shortage, at best we are papering over the cracks.
‘We need to see a sustained investment to grow the supply of our future nurses and the urgent delivery of a long-term plan for the staff of the NHS. We cannot do this without a massive increase in the amount of Government funding to incentivise people to study to become nurse and to support them when they are in full time clinical placements.’