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A drop in nursing applications

26 October 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 19

Applications to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) for nursing courses in the UK are down (as are applications for midwifery programmes). Scotland has seen the biggest drop, even though nursing students receive the highest student bursary, as well as the profession receiving a better pay award than the rest of the UK. Healthcare staff across Scotland were offered the largest pay package in the history of the NHS.

As of 30 June 2023, the number of applicants to Scottish programmes was 6450, compared with 7930 in 2022 and 9010 in 2021. It was below the pre-pandemic number of 7290 applicants from 2019. The high number in 2021 reflected an increase in demand for certain courses, including nursing and medicine, during the COVID-19 pandemic (Royal College of Nursing, (RCN), 2023a). Data published by UCAS (2023) showed a drop of 19% in applications overall in the 12 months to 30 June 2023. This figure should be a cause for concern not only for Scotland but also for other countries in the UK. This fall in applications is very worrying, it risks creating a staffing flashpoint that will put even more pressure on the NHS. The gap between the number of nurses needed and those entering the workforce is set to widen unless there is rapid action to grow and retain the domestic nursing workforce. The trend observed will be another setback to NHS recovery as it already has record high vacancy rates. The academic year has now commenced and the number of student nurses taking up programmes, overall, shows a decline (RCN, 2023b).

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