Forcing nursing students to take out student loans rather than providing bursaries might boost workforce numbers, says The Health Foundation.
In a response to the Government consultation on funding for student nurses, the think tank said it analysed UCAS data on applications for nurse training and found that “there is scope to increase the number of student nurses” with the proposals.
However, it added that the proposals would have to be implemented carefully and protect the diversity of nursing graduates.
The report says: “This will need specific measures with the finance package but also potential reforms to the training system for nurses wishing to enter training either as a second degree or from other healthcare roles.”
The Health Foundation adds that the nursing supply will increase under the new proposals only if there is enough funding for “innovative and high quality” placements to meet demand.
This analysis comes after research from London Economics by UNISON and the National Union of Students, which found that the change will reduce higher education participation by between 6% and 7%, equating to almost 2,000 students in the first year.
However, The Health Foundation argued that these findings were based on data that assumed nurses would respond to the bursary proposals in the same way as students did to the hike in university tuition fees in 2012.
The report says, because demand for nursing places is 2.5 applicants per place, a 60% fall in applications would need to be seen as a result of the proposed changes before we see a fall in filled training places.
In their analysis, The Health Foundation looked at nursing in Australia where the government and students contribute to the cost of training.
Reforms there over the last 10 years have included reductions and freezes in the contributions student nurses make along with a removal of the cap on places available in 2009, with universities moving to a demand-driven system.