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

Lancashire County Council to pay £200k in legal costs after Virgin Care legal battle

17/08/2018Lancashire County Council to pay £200k in legal costs after Virgin Care legal battle

Lancashire County Council has agreed to pay £200,000 in legal costs to two NHS Trusts after their decision to hand a £104million cont... more >
Former inadequate West Midlands maternity unit upgraded by CQC

17/08/2018Former inadequate West Midlands maternity unit upgraded by CQC

Walsall Manor Hospital’s maternity services have been given an improved rating from the health inspectorate following assessments made in J... more >
Major hospital stalled by Carillion collapse will go ahead under government funding deal

16/08/2018Major hospital stalled by Carillion collapse will go ahead under government funding deal

The construction of a major Midlands hospital that had its future cast into doubt following the collapse of infrastructure giant Carillion has be... more >
681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

The NICE impact on falls and fragility fractures

10/08/2018The NICE impact on falls and fragility fractures

Falls should not be an inevitable part of ageing – and their snowball effect means the consequence of falls are far from limited to just hospital admissions, says Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE Almost a third of over-65s in the UK have a fall at least once a year, with around 500,000 people presenting at hospital with fragility fractures. This is estimated to cost the ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

interviews

Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >
Tackling infection prevention locally

04/10/2017Tackling infection prevention locally

Dr Emma Burnett, a lecturer and researcher in infection prevention at the University of Dundee’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and a boar... more >
Scan4Safety: benefits across the whole supply chain

02/10/2017Scan4Safety: benefits across the whole supply chain

NHE interviews Gillian Fox, head of eProcurement (Scan4Safety) programme at NHS Supply Chain. How has the Scan4Safety initiative evolved sin... more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

health service focus