UCAS figures have revealed nursing degree applications have risen by a third compared to last year, a positive sign for the future of the NHS.
For the last 12 months health science has grabbed news headlines and swarmed social media’s news feeds. So, for many, it is hardly surprising that COVID-19 has inspired prospective students to look to health care for their future careers. UCAS reports that applications to study nursing have reached over 60,000, a significant rebound after years of decline following government removal of tuition and living cost support in 2017. In reaction to the decline, the government made a public commitment to add 50,000 more nurses to the NHS workforce by 2025, and last September rolled out a bursary scheme where nursing and midwifery students were awarded upwards of £5,000 per year to help with living costs. These statistics from UCAS suggest this initiative has had the desired effect, but Care Minister Helen Whately regards the ‘COVID effect’ as being the true catalyst in the increase in applications:
“These figures are a testament to the work of Health Education England and UCAS in highlighting nursing as a rewarding and accessible career path, as well as the remarkable achievements of all health and care professionals over the past year.”
Regardless of the reason for the surge, the boost in applications is most certainly a welcome sight for the nursing profession, and will hopefully lead to a far more robust and diverse workforce that is less likely to suffer from burnout due to staffing shortages. However, it is important to highlight that the recent rise in applications only brings numbers back to the levels they were five years ago, and with the NHS being an ageing workforce, more still needs to be done to solve long term staffing issues and retention.