Comment

02.05.18

Janet Davies: Our future workforce

Source: NHE March/April 2018

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), says ministers must accelerate progress to make nursing an attractive and robust career before it’s too late.

Last year was a challenging one for my profession. In the same year that the Nursing and Midwifery Council revealed that 27% more nurses are leaving nursing than are joining it, we saw the numbers entering training fall too. All the while, population demand continues to rise. This gap will grow wider without rapid action on the part of government. 

There are plenty of young people who have a passion for caring and can see their future in nursing. But we have a huge task ahead of us to encourage them to join and stay in this dynamic and varied profession when they regularly hear headlines of poor pay, 40,000 vacancies in England alone, and relentless pressure throughout the NHS.

The removal of the bursary for undergraduate nursing students was sold as a way to increase numbers trained – removing the apparent limit on student numbers. It took effect last year and, despite these intentions, it did not result in more people embarking on a career in nursing in 2017.

The early indications are that 2018 could be worse still. The latest figures from the university admissions service, released in January, show that nursing degree applications for this September entry have already fallen by 13% in England compared to the same time last year. Since January 2016 applications have fallen by a third in total – that’s 14,300 fewer applicants. The government boasts of a 25% increase in places, but more valuable still would be to attract enough students to fill them.

The very day after these figures were released, the government put measures before Parliament to withdraw funding for postgraduate students too – acting as a deterrent to those who already hold one degree and can qualify as a registered nurse in just two years.

In the same period, the government opened up a new route to becoming a registered nurse through degree apprenticeships. A new support role, the nursing associate, was introduced too. However, the new routes appear set to deliver a very small number of extra nurses. There has not been widespread uptake as employers understandably need extra financial support and, in addition to the university shortages, the new nursing apprenticeship attracted only 30 trainees against a government ambition of 1,000 apprentices this year.

The Health Select Committee has called for the nursing workforce to be expanded “at scale and pace.” Young people need to know the options available to them and are advised on their future careers by people who understand the value and impact of the nursing profession, and the wide range of career opportunities it brings. The government, employers, higher education institutions and other sector partners, together with the RCN, must launch a sustained, high-profile national recruitment campaign.

Alongside this ambition, in the RCN’s latest report, ‘Left to Chance,’ we set out costed incentives to boost numbers – including means-tested grants to ensure that the existing diversity of the student population is maintained. If we are to support our current workforce and bring on the next generation of nurses, we must restore continuing personal development (CPD) funding for nurses in England that has decreased by 60% over the past two years too. If we are to attract young people then we need to show them that nursing is a lifelong career with opportunities to expand and grow skills.

The first workforce strategy is expected from Health Education England in the summer. It must address the lack of accountability in current arrangements and, in coherent and detailed terms, explain how government will reconcile demand with the supply of nursing staff needed for safe and effective care.

In a few short months, another university application deadline looms. If, for a second time, the government fails to boost student numbers and places for them, then 2021 will become a missed opportunity to turn this around. Nursing is a wonderful career, but the government must do more to make it attractive to the tens of thousands of new nurses we need. If ministers fail, they are storing up unimaginable problems for the future.

 

Enjoying NHE? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

BMA calls for further investment, innovation into mental health

13/08/2020BMA calls for further investment, innovation into mental health

As coronavirus and the restrictions and measures which were taken to counteract it put an increased strain on people’s mental health, the B... more >
Work underway on £14.5m specialist CAMHS unit in Leeds

13/08/2020Work underway on £14.5m specialist CAMHS unit in Leeds

Work on a new state-of-the-art £14.5m Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) unit, being built in partnerships between Leeds Co... more >
Consistent UK-wide methodology set to record Covid-19 deaths

13/08/2020Consistent UK-wide methodology set to record Covid-19 deaths

Following a review by Public Health England (PHE) into the methodology used to calculate the number of Covid-19 deaths in the UK, a new single, c... more >

the scalpel's daily blog

Calling the NHS a ‘Covid-only service’ is untrue, unfair and potentially dangerous

12/08/2020Calling the NHS a ‘Covid-only service’ is untrue, unfair and potentially dangerous

Chris Hopson, Chief Executive, NHS Providers Last week the NHS was widely described as providing a ‘Covid-19 only’ service for much of the last few months. Frontline NHS trust leaders are frustrated and disappointed at this description as it is untrue, unfair and potentially dangerous. It is untrue because local hospital leaders were only formally required to pause non-urgent services for a period of two weeks, between ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

interviews

Matt Hancock says GP recruitment is on the rise to support ‘bedrock of the NHS’

24/10/2019Matt Hancock says GP recruitment is on the rise to support ‘bedrock of the NHS’

Today, speaking at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) annual conference, Matt Hancock highlighted what he believes to be the three... more >
NHS dreams come true for Teesside domestic

17/09/2019NHS dreams come true for Teesside domestic

Over 20 years ago, a Teesside hospital cleaner put down her mop and took steps towards her midwifery dreams. Lisa Payne has been delivering ... more >
How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >

last word

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad, president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), sits down with National Health Executive as part of our Last Word Q&A series. Would you talk us th... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

26/06/2020Adapting and Innovating

Matt Roberts, National Health Executive Editorial Lead. NHE May/June 2020 Edition We’ve been through so much as a health sector and a society in recent months with coronavirus and nothing can take away from the loss and difficulties that we’ve faced but it vital we also don’t disregard the amazing efforts we’v... read more >

health service focus

‘We are the NHS’: NHS England publish newest People Plan

30/07/2020‘We are the NHS’: NHS England publish newest People Plan

NHS England has published its People Plan for... more >
How NHS Property Services adapted to a new way of working

01/07/2020How NHS Property Services adapted to a new way of working

From May/June 2020 edition Trish Stephen... more >