There is a possibility that some type of financial incentive will be introduced to try and increase the number of people choosing to train as nurses, according to a report in the HSJ. This is a major U-turn for the government, which in 2015 removed the bursary system for trainee nurses. The removal of bursaries led to 10,000 fewer applicants in 2017, and now nurse vacancies in the NHS have risen to over 40,000.

The Department of Health and Social Care is discussing with NHS England, Health Education England, and NHS Employers, which represents England’s 240 NHS trusts, the possibility of bringing back cost of living grants of £3,000 to £5,000. The financial inducements may also be expanded to other health professionals where there are major shortages, including paramedics and podiatrists.

The HSJ also notes that there has also been a suggestion that debts from doing a first degree could be written off. Until bursaries were removed in 2015, nursing degrees attracted many mature students, who already had thousands of pounds worth of debt. Applications from mature students have now plummeted.

If financial incentives are introduced, it is likely that that they will be restricted to certain groups, however. The target will be mature students and those specialising in mental health and learning disability nursing; these two areas have major workforce shortages.

The idea has been welcomed by Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, however she told The Guardian that it would take an injection of at least £1 billion a year into nursing education, through both tuition support and also help with living costs, to get back to the number of applications there were before 2015.

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