Record nursing and midwifery students

10.8% increase in training places.  

The number of student nurses and midwives entering Scottish Government funded degree programmes will increase by 10.8% in 2018/19 – the sixth increase in a row.

The increase will mean a recommended intake of 3,724, up from 3,360 in 2017/18. This supports a commitment to create an estimated 2,600 new training places during this Parliament, which is expected to bring those in training to a record high of more than 12,000.

It is one of a range of measures being taken forward to increase the workforce, and was announced by Health Secretary Shona Robison on a visit to Erskine Home where she met students on placement.   

Ms Robison said:

“Staffing in our NHS is at a record high level, backed by record investment. This 10.8% increase – the sixth increase in a row – is just one step to sustain that into the future, ensuring we recruit and retain the next generation of staff.

“We have retained bursaries and free tuition for nursing and midwifery students. We intend to extend and increase successful initiatives which bring former nurses and midwives back into practice. And we are improving access to education and careers in the professions.

“We are investing in the future of the NHS and on track to deliver record numbers in training, ensuring we have the right staff, with the right skills, in the right place. When we consider the risk posed by Brexit, and the vital role EU citizens play, that becomes even more important.”


Increases will be seen across branches of nursing and midwifery education, as below:



Increase (%)




Mental health



Learning disability



Children’s health










The increase is based on modelling that talks account of a number of factors, including future demand. It was determined following discussions with a stakeholder reference group which includes representatives from NHS workforce planners, social care, universities and professional bodies and trade unions including RCM, RCN, and Unison.

UCAS figures published towards the end of 2017 showed the highest ever number of acceptances to study nursing at Scottish universities, with an 8% increase compared to a 3% decrease in England.

Recommendations from the CNO's Commission on Widening Participation in Nursing and Midwifery Education and Careers include a national campaign to recruit a more diverse workforce and tackle negative stereotypes, more flexible routes into education, and using the commissioning of training places to incentivise widening participation.

In 2015, the Scottish Government announced three-year funding for Return to Practice programmes, which have so far seen 379 former nurses take up the opportunity.

Since 2007, staffing has increased by over 12,400 WTE to a record high – a  9.8% increase. NHS staffing per head is also higher in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK – 25.8 per 1,000 people in Scotland, compared to 24.5 in Wales and 18.9 in England.


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