We will deliver 50,000 more nurses for our NHS. We are increasing the number of student nursing places on degree courses and improving the experience of working in the NHS so fewer nurses leave, and we will also add to our home-grown nurses through international recruitment. I am happy to report that we now have 13,840 more nurses in the NHS than a year ago.
I thank my hon. Friend for her answer. Does she agree that the changes made by Project 2000 in 1986 led to a large group of caring people being excluded from training to be nurses? If we are to recruit many more nurses, this approach should be rethought, with recruits once again being able to learn on the job, as they did prior to 1986. This would bring nurses’ education much more in line with the Government’s recognition that university is not for all children and fulfil our objective to have apprenticeships in all walks of life.
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. We want all those with the capability and aspiration to become nurses to be able to do so. That is why we are supporting multiple routes to becoming a nurse. While the majority of new nurses take the university route, another option is the degree apprenticeship, which enables students to earn while they learn. Last month, we announced a £172 million funding package to double the number of nursing apprenticeships.
I am delighted to hear that we are successfully recruiting into the nursing profession. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not just school leavers, but dedicated and caring people of all ages and diverse working backgrounds who have the transferable skills needed to start nursing qualifications? Will she outline what steps her Department is taking to engage with these individuals and encourage them to consider nursing as a vocation?
I completely agree that nursing should be open to all men and women from diverse backgrounds. Our £5,000 grant to all nursing degree students, starting this autumn, will help students with the cost of that degree course. In addition to the apprenticeships route that I just mentioned, in January we are launching an online blended nursing degree to give another route into nursing.