Call to boost nurse training opportunities in East Anglia

Karen Webb

Karen Webb - Credit: Archant

The number of nurses being trained in East Anglia needs to significantly increase to meet the demands of health services in the coming years, the Royal College of Nursing has claimed.

Figures obtained by the group under Freedom of Information laws show there is a significant interest from potential nursing students for related university courses, but demand is outstripping supply.

At UCS, the number of applications per place in 2014/15 for its adult nursing course stood at eight – this fell to five for this academic year.

For child health nursing this stood at 14 in 2014/15 and 13 in 2015/16, with the organisation’s mental health nursing programme seeing seven applications per place for both academic years.

Paul Driscoll-Evans, head of department for nursing studies at UCS, said: “The report today from the Royal College of Nursing for the region clearly shows that nursing remains a popular career choice and it is clear there is a need for more nurses nationally; UCS is working with our practice partners across all sectors of the NHS to meet that need.

“Our commissions are set by Health Education East of England based on the requirements of the local area, with academic staff delivering teaching at Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Great Yarmouth and students gaining practical experience in placements across Suffolk.

“In the last year alone the number of commissions allocated to UCS has grown 30% and for our September 2015 intake we filled all of our spaces. We are currently actively recruiting for the February 2016 intake.”

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The RCN says the number of applications per place at universities across the region show there is an “appetite” for a career in nursing.

Karen Webb, RCN eastern regional director, said generating a larger, home-grown workforce should be a priority in the region and that targeting nurses from overseas, while plugging vital holes in the workforce, can take staff away from countries with their own healthcare challenges.

She added: “If we were to train more nurses in the UK this would go a long way towards filling vacancies in our workforce and prepare for the challenges we face in the years to come providing services to an increasingly ageing population.”

Elsewhere, the number of applications per place in 2014/15 at the University of Essex was 11 for the adult nursing degree, five for the masters course, 17 for a mental health nursing degree and six for the masters. In this academic year, those figures stood at eight for the adult nursing degree and four for the masters, 21 for mental health nursing degree and five for the masters.

Martin Harrison, head of nursing at the University of Essex, said: “Whilst we do have a large number of applicants for our nursing programmes we believe it is important that we select the right people to enter nursing and we work closely with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and Health Education East of England (HEEoE) to continually improve the sensitivity of recruitment and selection.

“To help maintain the flow of nurses into the health workforce, which is both a challenging and complex issue, at Essex we have been at the forefront in developing different pathways into a career in nursing.”

The RCN has said cuts to student nursing places – known as commissions – were made by the Government in 2010 and that this affected the whole of the UK.

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