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UCAS reports 10 per cent reduction in 2022 nursing student intake

UCAS data suggests there was a 10 per cent reduction in the number of students entering nursing during 2022, adding pressure to already unrealistic nursing workforce targets, an expert has said.

Writing for the Nuffield Trust, Professor James Buchanan, senior visiting fellow at The Health Foundation says: “The NHS cannot hope to achieve the required sustained nurse numbers without a continued high-level reliance on international recruitment.”

Health Foundation scenario analysis references the 2019 electoral commitment to increase the number of nurses by 50,000 (full-time equivalent) by the end of 2023/24.

However, it warns that international recruitment will not be effective in filling all the 47,000 NHS England nurse vacancies, or all nurse shortages. Specialties such as community nursing and mental health do not have a ready-made international market. It cites research that states that only one of the 23,444 international registrants in 2021/22 was a learning disabilities qualified nurse.

The opinion piece also notes Nuffield Trust analysis, which flags a marked increase in inflow of nurses to the UK from red list countries. In the six months to September 2022, more than 2,200 (20%) of new international nurses came from just two red list countries: Nigeria and Ghana

Buchanan says: “We need effective monitoring to verify that international recruitment codes are being fully respected, and we need to invest more in domestic training of the health care workforce for long-term sustainability.”

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