Nursing degree courses should be expanded to capitalise on the surge in interest in NHS careers prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said today.
Speaking on International Nurses Day Sir Simon thanked nurses for all they have done during the greatest global health emergency in NHS history.
The NHS chief executive also called on universities to increase the number of places and give people interested in nursing more opportunities to sign up.
The NHS Health Careers website has seen a 220% rise in people expressing an interest in becoming a nurse.
As the NHS seeks to resume services paused during the coronavirus surge while continuing to care for thousands with the virus that interest should be translated in to greater nursing numbers.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “On International Nurses Day the whole country will want to come together to thank nurses who are working so hard to save and rebuild lives in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The biggest global health emergency in a century has put a huge spotlight on the crucial role of nurses not just in the NHS but also in social care.
“We have seen three generations of nurses pitching in to help, not just our current fantastic staff but also retired nurses coming back and student nurses beginning their careers early.
“And looking out across the years ahead we know we are going to need many more nurses.
“So this is an opportunity not just to thank our current nurses but also to invite bright and brilliant and committed people across the country to consider nursing as a career.”
The NHS England has made 8,000 more clinical placements available for nurses, up around a third to 30,000, funded by an additional £10 million, meaning there are expected to be up to 4,000 more placements available than degree courses this autumn.
At the moment universities only let people sign up once or twice a year, in January and September. A Spring recruitment drive could boost numbers.
Chief nursing officer Ruth May said: “Nursing can be challenging but it is also the most rewarding career you can have looking after patients and their families at the happiest times in their life, such as the birth of a child, and at the some of the most difficult.
“I hope people, young and older, will be inspired by the amazing response of our profession to the global coronavirus pandemic and my message to them is: join us.”