Boosting the nursing workforce
In England alone, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has identified 40 000 nurse vacancies, with cancer centres struggling to recruit specialist cancer nurses, 5000 mental health nurses' posts lost since 2010 and a 50% fall in district nurse numbers (RCN, 2019). The Cavendish Coalition says this is the equivalent of 45 hospitals' worth of nurses and it has urged the Government to step up recruitment to mitigate the loss of EU staff (National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), 2018). These gaps are set to be exacerbated 3 years hence by Brexit, with as many as 10 000 additional nursing vacancies feared, mostly in the harder-to-fill specialties.
The numbers of students applying to start nurse education in September 2018 dropped by 12% compared with 2017: a total decline of 16 580 since March 2016 (RCN, 2018). Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) data show applications to study nursing peaked in 2014 and sharply declined, particularly in 2017; in England, this coincided with the removal of the NHS bursary (NIESR, 2018).
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