Reductions in training
Training is incredibly important in the NHS. The NHS needs to train new staff and it needs to keep its current staff up-to-date with changes in practice and innovations. Since the decision by the last coalition Government to scrap bursaries for trainee nurses and midwives, there have been widespread impacts across the service. Applications by students for 2017/18 in England to nursing and midwifery courses at British universities have fallen by 23% after the government abolished NHS bursaries.
Nurse training places cut
In a March 2016 report the independent Migration Advisory Committee stated that the nationwide shortage of nurses has been driven by a desire from the government to save money. It revealed that Health Education England would have commissioned 3,000 extra nurse training places for 2016-17, but that financial cuts in November’s spending review meant it commissioned only 331 extra places.
Cuts to nurses bursaries
In 2016 the Government announced that bursaries for perspective nurses and midwives would be replaced with loans. Since then there have been steep declines in the number of applications for nursing courses. UCAS figures for the first wave of applicants hoping to start in 2018 sees a 13% drop from the previous year. With nursing students now facing up to £60,000 in debt this is no surprise.
Additionally, in May 2018 the Government passed plans to axe nursing bursaries for around 1,000 students who join the profession every year through a fast track course. Janet Davies, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The decision to remove undergraduate support resulted in a collapse in trainee applications. [...] The current shortage of nurses is jeopardising safe and effective patient care and the Government urgently needs to encourage more people to enter the profession.”
Midwife training reduced
Reductions in training within the NHS had already begun even before the announcement in November 2015. In October 2015 the Royal College of Midwives survey of Heads of Midwifery (HOMs) found that two-fifths of HOMs had to reduce training for their staff.
Increasing workloads leading to burnout
In a GMC annual survey of doctors in training it discovered that almost quarter of all doctors in training and fifth of trainers feel burnt out because of long, intense working hours and heavy workloads. Growing workloads and thin workforces have stunted learning opportunities for young doctors as well. Around a third of doctors in training and trainers said that training opportunities are lost to rota gaps.
The issue of rota gaps has been a recurring theme around the NHS. In May the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) found that cuts to NHS funding and gaps in rotas meant that nurses missed out on “vital” training.