Health Secretary announces 5,000 more nurse training places

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More than 5,000 training places are to be created for nurses each year to boost England’s workforce, Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has announced.

Mr Hunt said that in combination with a 25% increase in medical school places, the new nurse training places will markedly change the NHS’ ability to cope with upcoming pressures.

A recent study by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has revealed an estimated 40,000 vacant nursing positions in the health service and the Nursing and Midwifery Council recently warned that more nurses and midwives are leaving the UK workforce than are joining.

In addition to new training places, current NHS nursing staff will be provided with the opportunity to retrain at their local hospitals by means of a 4-year apprenticeship.

Mr Hunt said the NHS is estimated to care for 1 million more patients aged over 75 within the next 10 years, underlining the urgency to ‘jump-start’ nursing training.

He said the scheme represents the ‘biggest increase in nurse training places in the history of the NHS’. ‘We will also improve retention rates amongst our current workforce with new flexible working arrangements to be made available to all NHS staff,’ he added.

The RCN has welcomed the scheme, but described it as ‘too hospital-focused’. Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said: ‘Significant increases to training numbers is welcome ‒ we desperately need more nurses. However, they must be educated to the highest standards. We are concerned at the risk of students plugging the gaps in the current workforce at the expense of quality patient care and their own learning experience...’

She continued: ‘It is essential nurses of the future have a flexible education which enables them to work in a variety of settings to deliver a 21st century health and care service. We are prepared to work with the government on meaningful solutions for the education of nurses.’