Nursing Shortages Loom as Cutbacks Kill Health Careers
Byline: By Emma Brady Health Correspondent
Midland hospitals should prepare for severe nursing shortages as students shun courses amid fears over job security, a senior Birmingham health official warned.
Registration for 2007/08 courses in adult, learning disabilities and mental health nursing have fallen by almost a third - 31 per cent - at the University of Central England.
Professor Stewart Buchanan, dean of the UCE's faculty of health, blamed the "bad publicity" surrounding recent NHS cuts which have seen more than 1,500 jobs axed by Midland trusts.
He spoke out as he gave The Birmingham Post an exclusive preview of the university's new pounds 30 million Seacole Building, which will be officially opened by NHS chief executive David Nicholson today.
"Our real frustration is having this great new set up but, despite our strategic partnerships with local trusts, we have had great difficulty recruiting students," said Prof Buchanan.
"We usually have about 450 students on our adult nursing course, but we're about 140 down on this year's admissions, and it's a similar tale for mental health and learning disabilities. I think a lot of people considering a career in nursing are worried that they won't be able to get a job once they graduate. Before now nurses could more or less pick and choose where they worked, but that's not the case now."
South Warwickshire General Hospitals NHS Trust axed 160 jobs last September, along with Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust where 720 jobs were cut to help save pounds 30 million.
Of the 566 jobs axed last June at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, 200 were nursing jobs.
Coventry Primary Care Trust also made 90 redundancies in October, which included a number of nursing posts.
Prof Buchanan added: "Because of this, by 2011 there will be a nursing shortage and we could see nurses being flown in from overseas to make up the shortfall.
"I've seen a policy document stating that strategic health authorities should be making contingency plans for that scenario now." The new complex includes virtual facilities allowing students to prepare for practical work on wards and theatres.
Prof Buchanan explained: "Students can practice procedures on these expensive dummies in theatre or on one of the virtual wards and, using CCTV, their colleagues are able to watch they're doing and can discuss the decisions being made in there. …