22 Oct 2012
Money set aside to help student nurses through their course is being cut by £2 million, a report has shown.
Tomorrow’s health committee in the Scottish Parliament will be told that the overall bursary rate next year will drop from £69 million to £67 million, signalling a projected fall in numbers.
The reduction comes despite the fact Scotland’s nursing workforce is ageing, with more than a third over the age of 50.
That means by the time next year’s students have been through their full training and ready to enter wards on a permanent basis, thousands of older nurses will be contemplating retirement.
According to latest figures, there are 21,824 nurses and midwives aged 50 or over. That accounts for 33.4 per cent of the workforce. In 2009, that age group only accounted for 28 per cent of staff.
And with student nursing numbers dropping, there are concern the NHS could face a major staff shortage in the future.
The 2,430 who began courses this year is a vast drop compared to 3,060 who started two years ago.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman and deputy leader Jackson Carlaw MSP said:
“We know the SNP has already cut the number of nurses severely, despite its health budget being protected.
“Now its actions could lead to a severe nursing crisis for future generations.
“We simply cannot ignore the fact that more than a third of our nurses will either retire, or at least be contemplating retirement, over the next decade.
“But we are not training enough nurses or midwives to account for this gap.
“I appreciate when newly-qualified nurses are finding it tough to find work it may be tempting to cut intake numbers.
“But with the workforce demographic as it is, it is a severely short-sighted approach.
“As it stands, within a decade we will have to hire in significant numbers of nurses from overseas to account for this deficit, and that is something the public will not find acceptable.
“The SNP should reconsider its decision to cut bursary funding, which will only continue this trend of reducing student numbers in a vital profession.”