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Why we shouldn't panic about nursing students... yet

Blogged by King's Fund (25 July 2017): We’ve known for some time that there is a shortage of nurses in England. There’s nothing particularly new in that statement. It’s been said by us at the Fund, the Public Accounts Committee, Health Education England, and the Migration Advisory Committee.

That’s one reason why the decision to scrap the NHS bursary scheme and require trainee nurses and other health care students to take out loans has polarised debate. On the one hand, the government argues that this will create an additional 10,000 university places by making it more financially rewarding for universities to provide places on nursing courses, ultimately significantly increasing the pool of qualified staff. On the other, critics say it will deter people – particularly mature students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds – from applying for nursing courses and will saddle nurses with debt. And this takes place within the context of a wider debate about student finance and calls for it to be reformed.

So what effect has this had on the number of people training to be a nurse? Well, the number of applications for undergraduate nursing places in the UK has dropped dramatically this year: down 19 per cent from 2016.

Read more on the KF website

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The Brexit effect

Reported in Nursing Practice (24 July 2017): The number of nurses on duty has a direct impact on quality of care, patient experience and treatment outcome, yet the workforce shortage is worsening every day.

According to modelling by the Department of Health (DH) revealed in April, after Brexit the NHS could be hit by a shortage of up to 42,000 nurses by 2026 if immigration laws are altered. And new figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) suggest we may already be seeing an effect. Only 46 nurses from the EU have registered with the NMC to practise in the UK since the Brexit vote – a sharp 96% drop since July 2016. Any drop in workforce supply from the EU, combined with the increased demand on services, could place considerable pressure on an already overstretched NHS and its overworked nurses.

So just how much of an effect could Brexit have on the profession, and what are some of the other factors contributing to the nursing crisis? Bad for nurses, bad for patients

International recruitment has been used repeatedly by the NHS as a temporary solution to the staffing shortages. In England alone, there is currently a shortage of 30,000 nurses. Yet according to the NMC, as of July last year, there were 1,304 EU nurses who registered to work in the UK. This fell sharply to 344 nurses in September, following the EU referendum on 23 June. The numbers have since continued to fall, with just 46 EU nurse registrants in April 2017. And the introduction of more rigorous language testing for nurses from outside the UK is likely to contribute to the decrease.

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Putting prevention at the heart of care

Published by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (14 July 2017): The RCOT has published a new report aimed at putting prevention at the heart of care for older people.

Improving Lives, Saving Money calls for a shift from a ‘high volume, low cost’ approach to care to one which sees the whole person’s overall wellbeing. Its publication is accompanied by a moving film showing the stark reality of being dependent on social care faced by many older and vulnerable people.

In its report Living Not Existing: Putting Prevention at the Heart of Care for Older People, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists seeks to show how doing the right thing for individuals can actually reduce their need for expensive care long-term. It calls for an end to the inequality of access to occupational therapy, which is a barrier to people in need receiving high quality, person-centred care that enables people to stay as active, independent and safe as possible.

The report makes three recommendations:

  • An end to the inequality of access to occupational therapy. There are pockets of best practice, but too many people miss out on high-quality, proactive social care that promotes independence and self-determination.
  • More occupational therapists employed within primary care proactively helping older people adapt to ageing, increasing frailty and health problems. This can delay, reduce or prevent the need for expensive care and support.
  • Occupational therapists to be employed to lead on the development of person- and community-centred services that care for older people’s overall health and wellbeing to ensure they can live active independent lives in their communities for as long as possible.

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