Student nursing and midwifery places to reach record high in Scotland

The number of student nursing and midwifery places will reach a record high in the next academic year in a bid to tackle staffing pressures in the NHS.

Course spots available will rise to 4,006 in 2019/20, up more than 280 (7.6%) on the previous year and increasing for the seventh year running.

The largest increases for places on offer will be learning disability nursing at an 18% rise followed by mental health nursing – up 16.7% – and midwifery, up 13.7%.

The boost in course spots is one of several steps being taken to bolster NHS staff recruitment and retention in the face of warnings over workforce planning and staffing levels.

Further actions include about 460 former nurses and midwives retraining through the Return to Practice scheme since 2015 and some 116 nursing students having their Open University pre-registration programme funded by the Scottish Government.

On a visit to one of Scotland’s largest providers of nursing education, Glasgow Caledonian University, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Our nurses and midwives are critical to the success of our NHS and will continue to be so.

“We are acutely aware of the demand across Scotland in a variety of settings and I want to ensure our NHS is well equipped to continue to provide the best possible care for patients.

“We are determined to ensure we recruit and retain the next generation of staff to meet these needs.

“That is why we are again increasing nursing and midwifery student intake, with more than 4,000 places available in 2019/20.”

She said bursaries provide “vital” support for students, which for eligible student nurses and midwives in Scotland have been set at £6,578 a year since 2009/10 and, as announced by the First Minister last month, will rise to £8,100 in 2019/20 and £10,000 the following year.

Ms Freeman said: “By increasing this support, which is non-means tested and non-repayable, to £10,000 by 2020/21 we’ll make studying easier for those seeking a rewarding career in our health service.”

Eileen McKenna, of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: “This is a much-needed increase in the number of student places and we are pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to our concerns and recognised that Scotland needs more nurses.

“Demand for health and social care continues to increase, nursing vacancy rates are at an all-time high and a significant number of nurses are reaching an age where they can retire.

“Having the right number of nurses to meet demand is a fundamental step for the safety of patients and in ensuring that nurses are able to remain in the profession.”

Dr Mary Ross-Davie, director for Scotland for the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The RCM is pleased that the Scottish Government have listened to us.

“Today’s announcement on additional student midwife training places in Scotland is good news not only for our maternity services, but particularly for those wanting to become midwives.

“These additional midwife training places were really needed and will go towards future proofing Scotland’s maternity services to ensure that women and their babies will continue to receive safe high quality maternity care.”

The university’s principal, Professor Pamela Gillies, said the university is committed to working with the government to meet the future requirements of the health service.

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