3 in 4 young people not ruled out career in healthcare

3 in 4 young people not ruled out career in healthcare

Around three in four young people have not ruled out pursuing a career in healthcare – but perceptions of poor working conditions are putting many off, a survey has suggested.

The NHS workforce plan could “fall flat” unless young people are given greater incentives and support to embark on healthcare education courses, university leaders have warned.

A survey, of 5,259 young people aged between 16 and 26 across the UK – shared with the PA news agency, found 73% are considering or have considered pursuing a career in healthcare.

But the majority of respondents to the survey, commissioned by Universities UK (UUK), said they would be put off from embarking on a career in healthcare by perceptions of low pay (90%), poor work/life balance (82%), stress of the job (79%), and long working hours (75%).

The poll, carried out by Censuswide, found that 23% of young people said their ability to manage costs while studying put them off from enrolling onto a university healthcare course.

Nearly three in four young people said they would be more likely to choose to study on a healthcare course at university if they received more financial support – like grants and loans while studying (72%), or if they were paid for their clinical placements (73%).

UUK, which represents vice-chancellors at 142 universities, is calling for maintenance support to keep up with the increased cost of living to relieve financial pressures on healthcare students.

During the Covid-19 years, the number of applicants choosing to study on healthcare courses like nursing surged, with many reporting that the pandemic had inspired them to apply.

But the latest Ucas data shows that the number of people applying to undergraduate nursing courses in the UK has fallen this year – and the figure is now below pre-pandemic levels.

The Government unveiled the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan in June last year, hailing it as a “once in a generation” opportunity to employ 300,000 extra healthcare workers.

But in October last year, the UUK warned that the ambitious plans to recruit more staff could only be achieved if “significant changes” were made to healthcare education and training.

It called for a national recruitment campaign to be launched by the Government – in partnership with universities, colleges, schools and the NHS – to prevent the talent pipeline from “drying up”.

The survey, which took place between December 13-21, found only a fifth of young people said they were “very familiar” with the variety of career options available within the NHS beyond becoming a doctor or nurse.

Professor Alistair Fitt, health policy lead at UUK and vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, said: “The good news from this survey is the strong interest among young people for rewarding healthcare careers.

“With broad political support to significantly increase the number of healthcare staff, the challenge is how we make NHS careers attainable for many more potential students.

“The health service needs a pipeline of talent to be able to provide high-quality care. Universities have a vital role in training that talent and stand ready to deliver through innovative approaches to education and training.

“However, without bold and urgent change, ambitious plans for the future of the NHS in England are set to fall flat.”

Dr Billy Palmer, senior fellow at the Nuffield Trust, said: “The survey is a reminder of how perceptions of poor working conditions in the NHS can throw our chances of achieving a sustainable, homegrown supply of clinical staff into jeopardy.

“It not only highlights the need for additional support and more positive perceptions of clinical careers but also brings into stark relief the factors behind the avoidably high leaver rates during degrees and early on in clinicians’ careers.

“The survey also points at solutions, with around three-quarters of young people more likely to choose to study a healthcare course at university if their tuition fees could be written off for working in the NHS.

“We have previously argued that a student loans forgiveness scheme is an instant and affordable way to increase the number of applications to clinical courses as well as reducing the numbers leaving during training or early in their career.”

Professor Mark Radford, deputy chief nurse for England, said: “I am pleased to hear that so many young people are considering a career in healthcare and have a clear desire to make a difference to people’s lives, which is a core NHS value.

“A renewed focus on retaining our staff and improving flexible working options are at the heart of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, which offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put staffing on a sustainable footing and make healthcare careers more accessible and more appealing to young people, through world-class education and training and by offering a variety of routes including degree apprenticeships.

“The NHS will continue to work closely with Universities UK to ensure higher education remains central to implementation of the plan to help recruit and retain hundreds of thousands more staff over the next 15 years and improve patient care.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “It is encouraging that three in four young people in the UK are considering a career in healthcare, and the first ever NHS long term workforce plan will help attract many more, with the number of applicants outstripping places on offer for nursing and midwifery courses.

“Backed by more than £2.4 billion in government funding, it will bring together universities, the NHS and government to train and retain a health workforce for the future, doubling the number of medical school places to 15,000 and adult nurse training places to 24,000.

“We are also working closely with NHS England to support students.

“This includes a training grant for eligible nursing, midwifery and allied health profession students of at least £5,000 a year, alongside support for childcare.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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