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EDITIONS
Nursing attracts more recruits
Nurses tending to sick baby
Nurses tending to sick baby
by BBC PM's Gillian Hargreaves

It looks like the government has cause to celebrate in at least one area of the National Health Service.

After years of decline and gaps on training courses, figures obtained by PM on Radio Four, show a huge leap in the numbers of people coming forward for nurse training.

There's been a 25% increase in placements on the degree course and an 18% rise on the diploma course.

This makes nurse training one of the fastest growing areas of higher education this year.

At her office at the medical school in Birmingham, Renee Adomat, admissions officer, receives new applications for nursing.

She has seen an 18% increase in applications this year. "The boundaries between doctor and nurse are being blurred, many people will now find nursing an attractive career option", she explains.

Renee Adomat
Renee Adomat; "boundary between nurse and doctor has become blurred"

Her findings are echoed by the universities central admissions system or UCAS.

Tony Higgins, chief executive of UCAS, says that publicity campaigns have worked in recruiting more nurses.

"Since the government got to grips with publicising nursing, its become one of the fastest growing areas UCAS deals with and its set to continue", he said.

But keeping all these new recruits will be hard work for the government. The drop-out rate for nurse training currently runs at 17%.

Once qualified no one knows how many quit the NHS, but the Royal College of Nursing reckons 21% of nurses leave the wards every year.

Keeping recruits on board

On the other side of Birmingham, the University of Central England trains about 700 nurses each year.

Mary Farrelly is a mature student. She says she wouldn't have been able to study had she not had her existing salary matched.

She says she understands why people on her course have already left.

"They've got young families and when they get here, they find it doesn't fit in with family life, financially or with work patterns, because we have to work shifts", she said.

Back at Birmingham medical school Renee Adomat has already lost six students, even though the training course only began two weeks ago.

She says she's constantly asked for references from people leaving the profession and thinks the government must find more imaginative ways to make people stay.

"We could have a nine to five term time only shift and areas within wards and intensive care could be covered more adequately", Ms Adomat explains.

While there is no denying the recruitment figures are good news for the government, they won't yet solve the problem of nursing shortages in the NHS.

Any bad publicity this winter, when hospitals are stretched to the limit, might end up putting people off a career on the wards.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Gillian Hargreaves reports
"The national drop-out rate runs at about 17%"
Professor Michael Joy, Cardiologist
"If you come into hospital you have a reasonable right to expect to be treated in privacy, in safety and with dignity"
See also:

28 Sep 00 | Health
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