NHS faces drop in nurse practitioner numbers

Nurse practitioner numbers will fall in ten years because not enough are being trained to replace those approaching retirement, a senior nurse has warned.

RCN nurse practitioner association chair Jenny Aston said: ‘In ten years there will not be as many nurse practitioners. There was a hiatus in training, but now there are lots in their 50s who will be retiring. Not as many are coming up behind them.'

However, a census of universities offering advanced nursing courses appears to show that numbers of nurses on courses have recovered after warnings the courses could be threatened by a 10 to 20 per cent fall in students (IN, 15 October 2007).

A total of 22 out of 40 universities that are part of the Association of Advanced Nursing Practice Educators (AANPE) responded to the census. Some 464 nurses trained on their courses in 2005/6, falling to 449 in 2006/7 and rising again to 457 in 2007/8.

But only a third of nurses who began advanced nursing courses in 2005/6 and 2006/7 completed them. Ms Aston said ‘A lot of people are only doing a few modules, not an entire nurse practitioner degree.' She said local NHS organisations and GPs would be more likely to part-fund advanced nurse training if more additional central funding was made available.

AANPE chair Dave Barton said this was ‘not an unusual rate of attrition' given that many students are self-funding or have only study-leave support.

The census also found that only 9 out of the 22 universities ran RCN accredited courses.

Mr Barton said RCN accreditation was viewed as the ‘gold standard' but remained optional. He said the AANPE continued to press for NMC recognition of an ‘advanced practice standard'.

nick.bostock@haymarket.com

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