NHS bosses say fewer trainee nurses dropping out of courses in the region is a key factor behind the reduction, which is significantly more than other parts of the UK.
Cuts in the North-East and North-West in places for the coming 2011-12 academic year are around five per cent and about nine per cent nationwide but in Yorkshire the 14.5 per cent reduction will see numbers of student nurses recruited fall by more than 300 to around 1,800.
Midwifery training is being maintained at the same level as last year after Ministers intervened in the wake of pledges to increase numbers of midwives although there seems little prospect of a pre-election promise by Prime Minister David Cameron to increase them by 3,000 being fulfilled. Some 259 midwifery places will again be available from the autumn.
Further cuts in funding will also reduce training for other health disciplines including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and radiography.
NHS officials in the region said the cut was based on estimates of likely NHS demand in three years time for staff “to ensure we have an appropriately resourced and skilled workforce that matches local needs”.
There had been significant action taken to reduce the drop-out rate in universities among nurses which meant more would qualify than expected.
“The forecast is that the numbers in training will match the region’s needs in order to get best value for the public from the costs of training,” said a spokeswoman.
The chairman of the Council of Deans of Health which represents 85 UK universities, Sue Bernhauser, who is also dean of the School of Human and Health Sciences at Huddersfield University, said the cut was likely to mean redundancies in universities as staff dealt with fewer students.
She said cuts were less severe in some other parts of the country but the reduction in Yorkshire reflected success in improving retention rates in the region, while the recession meant more people were applying.
“Workforce planning in the NHS is not an exact science. Last autumn there were quite a few graduates for nursing and physiotherapy that didn’t get jobs,” she said.
She said in future nurses were likely to be working in different ways, taking on new roles in the community outside hospitals, particularly helping people with long-term conditions.
The head of Leeds University’s School of Healthcare, Prof Dawn Freshwater, said it faced a cut across its health-related disciplines but improved retention rates and past increases in training numbers meant more students had been qualifying than anticipated.
“If we had taken the same number of students we would be in quite a difficult position because our attrition rates are so low and we don’t want to be training too many staff,” she said.
The deputy head of the Department of Health Sciences at York University where 180 nursing undergraduates will begin their training in October, Sue Ford, said more students were being retained so the output of nurses would not be as affected, but it remained unclear what the long-term needs of the NHS would be both in nurse numbers and the type of work they would do.
“This year is particularly challenging in terms of getting the numbers right,” she said.
Shirley Congdon, dean of the School of Health Studies at Bradford University, said the reduction in funding would affect a number of its programmes including nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and radiography.