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The latest UCAS data from October 2018 show that demand for nursing courses remains strong, with applications exceeding the number of places available this year. The number of acceptances to nursing and midwifery courses in 2018 is consistent with earlier years at approximately 22,000. The final data will be published in December 2018.
Does the Minister accept that student nurses face pressures from the long hours they have to study and the long hours they spend on placements, which makes it very difficult for them also to carry out paid work? Is there any more the Government can do to support student nurses financially as they go through college?
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, we recognise the vital role that nurses play, and we are determined to support them. We are determined to have more nurses in training and more nurses treating patients. At the moment, a student on the loan system typically achieves 25% more in their pocket than they would have had on the bursary, but the Government recognise that there are still pressures, which is why we have the learning support fund, the exceptional hardship fund and support for mature students.
I talk to local employers who desperately want to support nursing apprenticeships as an alternative to the higher education route, but the uptake of apprenticeships is very disappointing. The levy can be used only for training costs, and trusts have been asked to plug the shortfall in funding for wider capacity building and to cover the 20% of time for which apprentices have to go to off-the-job training. Does the Department recognise this problem? What is being done to address it?
The hon. Lady is right that the number of trusts that currently use the levy is not as high as it should be. We hope that all will do so. It continues to be a priority for us to broaden the routes into nursing. We will address in the long-term plan the specific matter about which the hon. Lady talks.