I appreciate your concerns. The NHS relies on a well-trained workforce to deliver the best possible care for patients. It is crucial to ensure the NHS workforce can be renewed with a regular supply of staff, including nurses.
The number of nurses in training actually reached a record high in 2016, and there are over 13,000 more nurses on wards since 2010. But I believe more can be done to boost the training of nurses in the NHS. Under the NHS bursary system, an artificial cap on the numbers of nurses was created as the cost is carried by the NHS alone. This has led to 30,000 nursing applicants being rejected, with only 2,500 students successfully entering postgraduate routes to nursing, midwifery and allied healthcare professions at present. This is not sustainable when we need more nurses.
I believe this is why postgraduate nursing bursaries, and other financial aid for health students, need to be moved towards the standard student loans system. Student loans are a more generous and effective system as students without dependents can receive as much as £9,256 per year, whereas under the NHS-funded bursary system they would receive under £7,000. I hope you are aware that significant grants for financial commitments like childcare and travel will continue to be available, so all nursing students are properly supported throughout their studies.
I would like to point out that university is not the only career path for aspiring nurses. To help spread greater opportunity, nursing apprenticeships will also be increased to 7,500 during 2019, which will mean many people can earn while they learn, and become nurses without needing a student loan.