Nursing training applications plummet by nearly a fifth in just one year
- Credit: RCN
Applications to become a nurse in Norfolk have dropped by a fifth in just a year, new figures show.
It comes after the government dropped the living support bursary for nursing students, with the Royal College of Nursing saying mature students have been hit particularly hard.
Norwich North had the biggest reduction - with 50pc fewer applications between 2016 and 2017.
But in North Norfolk and Mid Norfolk applications increased.
Data from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) showed in 2014 there were 650 applications to start a nursing degree in Norfolk. By 2016 this had dropped to 595 but by 2017 it was just 485.
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Nurses often continue to work locally, the RCN said, so a drop in applications in one area could point to future nursing staff shortages there.
Dr Anne Corrin, head of professional learning and development at the RCN, said: 'A drop in nursing students in key areas could spell disaster for patients in the local community.
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'Nursing students often go on to work for local hospitals or other employers, and fewer students coming through will only worsen the recruitment crisis in the area.'
Teresa Budrey, RCN eastern regional director, added: 'In the East of England we are aware of many NHS trusts with unfilled vacancies for nurses and that there are cases where lack of key staff has been a factor raised in inspections by the Care Quality Commission.
'The RCN is calling for the Government to pledge at least £1bn a year back into higher education for nursing students. This financial support will play a key role in ensuring we have the future workforce we need.'
Karen Bates, director for admissions, recruitment and marketing at the school of health sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA) said: 'Whilst there has been a drop, we are seeing good quality applications and an increase in offers being made. Although students can no longer draw on bursaries, there are other avenues of funding available for travel and accommodation and the child dependency allowance. As an institution we are very keen that finance should not be a barrier to someone wishing to undertake healthcare training.
'There is still no shortage of people wanting a career that is satisfying, challenging and which offers up a multitude of opportunity for diversification into nurse education, nurse led research or specialisation in advanced nursing roles.'
The region's health trusts said they had looked to new ways of training nurses.
At the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston, two scholarships had been set up in partnership with UEA.
While Paul Cracknell, deputy chief executive at Norfolk Community Health and Care, said: 'We have flexible options for those aspiring to be nurses outside the university route.
'One of the options is our four-year Nursing Apprenticeship programme, which has attracted over 330 applications this year.
Diane Hull, chief nurse at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), said: 'Ten staff have recently become registered mental health nurses after successfully completing an 18-month work-based learning programme while studying for a degree in mental health nurse nursing.'