Nursing student

Nursing education could collapse without urgent action, warn leaders

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called for the next government to make an immediate financial intervention to stabilise nursing education, after polling indicated the sector could be on the brink of collapse.

The alarming statistics come from an RCN survey of more than 600 nurse lecturers and other higher education nursing staff, which saw over six in 10 report redundancies, restructures and recruitment freezes.

The situation is causing around a quarter of nursing educators question their position in the industry and wonder whether they should leave the profession altogether.

41,000 vacancies

The RCN says that when students finish their courses, they are being told that there are no graduate-entry nursing roles available — this is against a backdrop of approximately 41,000 vacant registered nurse posts in the UK.

The impact of frozen tuition fees and a stark drop in the number of international nursing applicants sees English universities under particular financial strain.

In fact, 54 out of 72 universities offering nursing degrees in England are being forced to reduce staffing costs — three in four of those surveyed believe further cuts would jeopardise the outcomes of nursing students.

‘That’s how to secure the workforce of the future’

“Nursing is a degree-educated, highly skilled and safety-critical profession, but the very people who teach and train the nurses of the future are being made redundant,” said the RCN’s acting general secretary and CEO, Professor Nicola Ranger.

“The financial crisis in universities is threatening to engulf nursing — we need action now to stop a total collapse of courses.”

The RCN is calling for whoever forms the next government to deliver an emergency financial intervention to stabilise universities within 100 days of taking office.

“What is happening in universities will impact the NHS, the care sector, and their ability to provide safely staffed services,” added Prof Ranger.

“The higher education sector educates and trains the vast majority of nurses and without an urgent intervention, ministers and health leaders will face a deepening nurse recruitment crisis.”

She concluded: “This summer, the government must deliver financial support to stabilise universities. This cannot wait. And we must see ministers protect nursing courses by properly incentivising people to study the profession.

“That’s how to secure the workforce of the future and protect patient safety."

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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