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Pandemic heroes inspired leap in nursing degrees

Staff nurses work in the corridor in the Acute Dependency Unit at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south-west London. Pic by Victoria Jones

By Ella Pickover, PA Health Correspondent

The professionalism shown by nurses during the coronavirus pandemic could be behind a leap in the number of students, leading nurses have said.

Ucas figures show the number of students accepted onto nursing courses has increased by 8% from last year, to 26,730.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that the increase is “encouraging” but warned of significant staff shortages.

It said the newest cohort of undergraduate students will not qualify until 2024 at the earliest.

RCN director for England, Patricia Marquis, said: “This latest increase in acceptances to nursing courses is encouraging and is no doubt a result of the high profile and professionalism of nursing staff during the pandemic.

“But record numbers of acceptances does not equate to record numbers of nurses entering the workforce, as many of these students won’t qualify until 2024 and beyond.

“There are already significant staff shortages in nursing and it is clear acceptance numbers are not keeping pace with vacancies.

“Pressures of the pandemic have also left nursing staff exhausted.

“This not only puts patient care at risk but means students risk not completing their studies and entering the workforce.

“Ministers must reverse the 3% pay deal if we are to discourage many from abandoning the profession, leaving future nurses without the expert teaching they need.”

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