The record number of student nurses who have been accepted onto courses in England this year is ‘still not keeping pace with vacancies,’ the RCN has warned.
Universities and Colleges Admissions Service data has revealed a 1.5% increase in acceptances for the nursing and midwifery intake in 2021. In total, 30,185 student nurses and midwives secured a place on a programme in England, a rise from 29,740 in 2020 and 23,630 in 2019.
Patricia Marquis, RCN England director, said the rise is likely thanks to the ‘high profile and professionalism’ of nurses during Covid-19. But she also pointed out the students won’t qualify until 2024 or later, and some might not complete their studies given the pressures of the pandemic.
‘There are already significant staff shortages in nursing and it is clear acceptance numbers are still not keeping pace with vacancies,’ she concluded.
But Ruth May, England’s chief nursing officer, said: ‘Our amazing staff have shown throughout the pandemic what a brilliant job they do and the public recognises now, more than ever, what a vital role nurses, midwives and other health care workers play.’
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘It is fantastic to see so many people taking the first steps toward rewarding careers in nursing and midwifery, with record numbers accepting places to study for 2 years running.
‘I have no doubt the efforts of healthcare staff during the pandemic have inspired a new generation, who will help secure the future of our health and care services,’ he added.
The RCN also repeated calls for a higher pay rise for nursing staff to address vacancies, after its members in England and Wales said they would take industrial action over pay this month.
Ms Marquis said: ‘Ministers must reverse the 3% pay deal if we are to discourage many from abandoning the profession, leaving future nurses without the expert teaching they need.’
In September last year, the Government introduced training grants for eligible nursing, midwifery and many allied health profession students of at least £5,000 a year.
This also comes after the RCN this week released a series of short films showcasing the ‘rich diversity’ of newly qualified nurses and the healthcare settings they work in.