The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Health Secretary announces more places for student nurses

Plans to tackle NHS staff shortages continue as Jeremy Hunt reveals plans to increase the number of nurses being trained and lifting the 1% pay cap on nurses in the workforce

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Earlier this month, at the Conservative party conference, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed new plans to increase the number of nurse training places by 25 per cent. Last week he made a further speech announcing the cap on nurses’ wages would finally be lifted this year, allowing for a rise above the current 1% limit.

The new plans will increase the number of university places for nursing degrees, as well as introducing a new scheme to train nursing associates into registered nurses via a four-year apprenticeship.

These plans represent the biggest increase in nurse training the NHS has ever seen and will bring the total number of new student nurses up to 25,850 in 2018, with 5,000 new places on offer across the UK.

The new Nursing associate apprenticeship will take place “on the job” within the NHS. It will take 4 years to qualify as a registered nurse via this pathway. The apprenticeship will allow trainees to earn as they learn, as well as skipping the £9,250 per year fees of a regular nursing degree. However, the new role of nursing associate was only announced last year and has yet to see any nurses qualify from the two-year training course

While Hunt’s new plans may provide a higher volume of staff,  many have questioned why the funding of these new training places since NHS nursing bursaries were revoked this year. Medical and dental student are eligible for NHS bursaries to help with the cost of living and tuition fees, whereas nursing students must rely solely on funding from the student loans company.

A second-year student nurse at the University of Manchester said “I think that it will help with the lack of nurses…[and] the pay cap needed to be lifted.” However, she went on to add  “[I] think it’s unfair that someone will eventually be able to have the same role as me after being in a paid apprenticeship for a few years… whilst I have to do a degree alongside working full time with no wage.”

Hunt recently announced a similar promise to medical students, pledging to increase the numbers of places at medical schools by 25 per cent to 6,500 each year, in order to increase the number of Junior doctors entering the NHS in the wake of Brexit.

The NHS is under a great threat of staff shortages as the UK approaches Brexit in 2019. Over 150,000 staff in the NHS are European. Changes to the freedom of movement of citizens throughout the EU and UK may jeopardise the jobs of many of these workers.

The new plans revealed by the conservatives are an attempt to counteract the anticipated drop in staff numbers and equip the NHS to handle the transition.