A slump in acceptances on nursing degrees this year will worsen the staffing crisis in health and social care, a union leader has warned.
Royal College of Nursing chief Pat Cullen said figures released by Ucas on Thursday showing 1,560 fewer students were admitted to courses than in 2021 were pointing “in the wrong direction”.
There are 21,130 accepted applicants onto nursing courses this year compared with 22,690 last year, the RCN said.
With that in mind, the UK and Nepal have signed a deal to try and attract nurses from the country in the UK healthcare system.
The Nepalese Government said all nurses aged 20 to 45 can apply to the scheme, which will see them earn a salary between £27,000 and £32,000.
However, there are concerns about the ethics of this move.
Nepal is on a World Health Organization ‘red list’ to prevent health workers from countries with shortages from being poached.
Unions have hit out at officials who are ‘over-relying’ on foreign medics and failing to recruit and retain British staff.
Nepal is one of 47 countries the WHO says faces the ‘most pressing workforce challenges’ — meaning they have fewer than 50 medics per 10,000 people.
However, the WHO says countries can poach healthcare workers from red-listed countries if their Governments enter an agreement, which the UK has done.
When a government-to-government agreement is signed with a red-listed country, it is moved to the amber country list where recruitment is restricted solely to the terms of such a deal.
Meanwhile, NHS England has urged students who are still undecided on their next steps to “make the most of clearing opportunities” and apply for a place on a nursing course.
Ruth May, NHS chief nursing officer, said: “Joining the NHS was the best decision I ever made so if you are a student thinking about your next steps, please consider applying to study nursing through Ucas clearing – it is one of the most employable degrees around and probably the most rewarding career in the world.”