A drop in nursing degree acceptances this year will deepen the staffing crisis in health care and social services, a union leader has warned.
The head of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen, said figures released by Ucas on Thursday showing 1,560 fewer students being admitted to courses than in 2021 pointed “in the wrong direction”.
There are 21,130 applicants accepted for nursing courses this year, up from 22,690 last year, the MRC said.
The impact of this drop in acceptances to nursing courses, as well as the drop in applications this year, should not be underestimated.
Pat Cullen, RCN
Ms Cullen said: “To tackle the staffing crisis and deliver the kind of care patients deserve, we need these numbers to look even stronger. Unfortunately, they headed in the wrong direction this year.
“The impact of this drop in acceptances to nursing courses, as well as the drop in applications this year, should not be underestimated. This will only aggravate the growing nursing workforce crisis.
It comes after a damning report last month revealed that persistent understaffing in the NHS creates a serious risk to patient safety.
The all-party health and social care committee has said health and social care services in England are facing ‘the biggest workforce crisis in their history’ and the government has no credible strategy to improve the situation.
Projections suggest that 475,000 more jobs will be needed in health care and 490,000 more jobs in social services by the start of the next decade.
Earlier on Thursday, Education Secretary James Cleverly defended the government’s refusal to lift the cap on medical student admissions this year and said it was increasing NHS recruitment.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today program why the government won’t lift the cap, he said: ‘The NHS has always relied heavily on overseas healthcare professionals, and I doubt that will change at any point in my life. .
“We are recruiting more doctors and more nurses, we are training more local medical talent. It’s true.
“We are seeing these numbers of medical professionals increase, but, as I said, the nature of these incredibly highly technical professional medicine courses makes them different from other courses.”
If you are a student thinking about your next steps, please consider applying to study nursing
Ruth May, NHS Chief Nursing Officer
He later said medical courses in other countries often had “huge” fees for students, adding: “We chose to make a different decision. We do not place the financial burden on the students themselves.
“The government subsidizes the courses heavily because the courses themselves are important and that’s the trade-off.”
Meanwhile, NHS England has urged students who are still undecided about their next steps to “make the most of compensation opportunities” and apply for a place on a nursing course.
Ruth May, NHS Chief Nursing Officer, said: ‘Joining the NHS was the best decision I have ever made, so if you are a student thinking about your next steps, please consider applying to study nursing via Ucas compensation – this is one of the most employable degrees around and probably the most rewarding career in the world.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Congratulations to everyone receiving their A-Level and T-Level results today, and especially those who will be joining our fantastic NHS and social care staff.
“A career in the NHS or social services is hugely rewarding and with a variety of pathways to develop your career and skills, you will undoubtedly make a difference in people’s lives every day.”