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Nursing courses put at risk by funding fall, warn universities

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Universities say nursing education has reached a “tipping point”, with proposed funding cuts putting the quality of courses and ultimately the quality of nursing care at risk.

Some universities may even pull out of offering nursing and midwifery courses altogether, according to a briefing paper from the Council of Deans of Health and Universities UK, who are representing universities in talks on funding with Health Education England.

Ongoing negotiations between the two sides are focused on the amount of cash to accompany each place on nursing, midwifery and allied health profession courses from 2014-15.

The report suggests universities would be left with a 12-16% funding shortfall if cuts proposed by HEE are implemented. Universities are already struggling with a funding gap of 7.6-11.5% for providing pre-registration courses, the report warned.

It stated: “Any cuts that further widen the gap risk not only a significant negative impact on the quality of education but could also result in some universities withdrawing from pre-registration provision altogether.”

The report shows universities currently get £8,315 for each diploma and degree place – with those in London getting slightly more – via a nationally agreed price called the benchmark price. HEE has proposed the BMP for nursing courses should fall to £8,165 in 2014-15.

The funding is supposed to cover all costs of proving a course, but a 2007 government-backed review found the BMP had already fallen “significantly behind” increases in course costs.

The report said the funding gap could widen to at least 12%, but warned this was likely to be a conservative estimate because of the need to invest in new technology, like simulation suites.

“We believe the proposed funding cuts for 2014-15 put education for nurses, midwives and AHPs at a tipping point,” the report stated. “Undermining the quality of health higher education and potentially destabilising its provision is a risk that we simply should not be prepared to take.”

An HEE spokeswoman told Nursing Times:  “We are seeking to ensure that we get the best possible value for taxpayers’ money.”

“These negotiations are still underway and we will continue to talk to the Council of Deans of Health and Universities UK,” she said.

Sources close to the negotiations told Nursing Times that HEE had argued an increase in the overall number of students would compensate for reducing the amount of money per student.

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