Who trains the nurses? Universities and the placements shortfall

22 Feb 2023

The latest policy briefing calls for the UK and Scottish governments to urgently reform the clinical training placements system to ensure a healthy supply of nurses across the NHS. It analyses the challenge of meeting an increased demand for more nurses within the NHS alongside the need for a resilient and flexible clinical placements system to boost and support growth. Demand for more nurses coming into the NHS within England and Scotland is ever growing.  Modern universities, which collectively train around two-thirds of all student nurses, are up to this challenge. However, increasing the recruitment of student nurses is only half the solution; the requirement for student nurses to undertake training through a clinical placement before qualifying presents a clear barrier for growth.

With the NHS workforce under immense pressure due to record numbers of experienced nurses leaving the profession, which in turn reduces supervisory and mentoring staff for clinical places, and further increases in student numbers needed to meet workforce targets, the system is creaking at the seams.

This briefing highlights the innovative approaches modern universities have taken to expand placement capacity, the mentoring and monitoring of students while on placement and improvements to working hand in hand with their partner NHS Trusts, care homes and other placement facilities. It is these long-standing, mutually beneficial partnerships that aided modern universities to continue to provide placements during the pandemic and will assist in expanding the system further.

To preserve nursing as one of the most important and respected professions, steps must be taken to reform clinical placements. The lessons learned by modern universities in recent years help to provide a blueprint for these reforms.

Now is the time for governments in both Westminster and Holyrood to invest in the education of nurses to ensure the NHS meets the increased demand for its services and the recommendations outlined in this report would allow for additional student recruitment, see more stable investment in nursing education and training and allow for more efficient use of existing resources to free up placement capacity.

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