Jeremy Hunt to announce plans to boost nursing numbers

Jeremy Hunt will today set out plans to boost the number of nurse training places by 5,000 next year as he presses ahead with a pledge to deliver the biggest increase in training "in the history of the NHS".

Jeremy Hunt

Addressing Tory Party conference, Mr Hunt will also reaffirm his commitment to introducing flexible working hours for NHS staff, as part of Government efforts to "transform" the ability of the health service "to cope with the pressures ahead".

The announcement comes as the country's hospitals head for a winter care crisis which experts warn could be the worst in recent history.

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It also follows calls for an "urgent review" of hospital staffing levels after the Royal College of Nursing warned patient safety and dignity is being put at risk by over-stretched services.

The plans to increase nurse degree training places forms the next stage of the Government's commitment to train an additional 5,500 nursing associates each year by 2019.

The Conservatives have already announced plans to create a new nursing apprenticeships route, which will allow budding health workers to "earn while they learn".

Speaking today, Mr Hunt will describe the measures as "the biggest increase in nurse training places in the history of the NHS".

He will tell delegates: "The NHS will be looking after a million more over 75's in just a decade. We need to jump-start nurse training."

The Health Secretary will also announce steps to improve retention in the NHS workforce, including with new flexible working arrangements and a scheme which will give NHS workers first refusal on affordable homes built on surplus NHS land.

"Combined with the 25 percent increase in medical school places announced last year, this will transform the ability of our NHS to cope with the pressures ahead," he will say.