25% of Student Nurses Quit Training
A quarter of student nurses in the UK quit their training courses before they qualify, new figures have revealed.
The Nursing Standard, which obtained the data under the Freedom of Information Act, said that even by conservative estimates the high drop-out rate was costing the NHS about 57 million a year.
Experts said more needed to be done to reduce the number of trainee nurses leaving their courses before they finish.
The Government believes drop-out rates across the UK are now around 14% for nursing courses. But today's figures showed that some courses had rates as high as 50%, while others were as low as 7%.
Six universities refused to give their figures, while 17 were excluded from the analysis for reasons such as providing the wrong information. Out of 19,995 nursing students whose course was expected to finished in 2004, a total of 4,956 dropped out - an attrition rate of 24.8%.
Nurse training is estimated to cost around ?11,479 a year per nurse, including their bursary, and most students left during their first year of training. So experts agreed that a reasonable estimate for the annual costs of nurse student drop-outs in the UK was almost 57 million.
Susan Watt, student adviser at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: "That is a huge amount of money. There is a lot to be said in investing that money sensibly.
"It's time to look seriously at this issue. It is also a waste of people resources. It's a lost opportunity for great nurses."
The RCN said the main reasons for students quitting were financial pressures, lack of childcare support and poor experiences on ward rounds. Some students are also struggling to cope with the academic demands of courses.
Nursing Standard editor Jean Gray says: "To lose a quarter of all students is a huge loss - in terms of the shattered hopes and dreams of thousands - but also in terms of the public purse. The statistics should serve as a warning for some serious review of how we are treating our nursing students."