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It took a global pandemic to inspire more people to join this profession

PUBLISHED: 05:30 24 July 2020 | UPDATED: 06:55 24 July 2020

Meillsa Dowdeswell, chief nurse for the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, says Ipswich and Colchester hospitals are now operating at a minimal vacancy rate. Picture: ESNEFT/SARAH LUCY BROWN

Meillsa Dowdeswell, chief nurse for the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, says Ipswich and Colchester hospitals are now operating at a minimal vacancy rate. Picture: ESNEFT/SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The Covid-19 pandemic has given people a new respect for NHS staff and hospitals in the region are taking on more nurses and midwives thanks to a government grant.

Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock is pleased with the rise in the number of people applying to be nurses and believes the government is on track to hit their target of 50,000 more nurses by the end of parliament. Picture: GREGG BROWN/ESNEFTHealth Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock is pleased with the rise in the number of people applying to be nurses and believes the government is on track to hit their target of 50,000 more nurses by the end of parliament. Picture: GREGG BROWN/ESNEFT

The Nursing and Midwifery’s Council recently reported a record number of nurses and midwives employed in the NHS and UCAS has seen a rise of 68% in applications from January to June compared with last year.

Melissa Dowdeswell, chief nurse at the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, says there has always been an appreciation for nurses but that the Covid-19 crisis has brought it to the forefront of people’s minds.

“Interest in nursing is likely to have increased due to Covid-19,” she said. “However, nationally there has been a huge programme of work to highlight what a fantastic profession nursing is and encourage as many people in to a healthcare career as possible.

“Due to Covid-19 highlighting the profession, the national work to increase those interested in a healthcare career, and the grant available to train, I would imagine it would continue to be a popular career choice.”

The trust has praised the guaranteed grant of £5,000 which is available for all student nurses and midwives starting courses from September, to help with living costs, and Ipswich and Colchester hospitals are now operating at a minimal vacancy rate.

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Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary and West Suffolk MP, said: “This pandemic demonstrated just how talented and valued our brilliant nurses and midwives are, and it is fantastic to see an explosion of applications for nursing and midwifery courses.

“As well as a hugely rewarding career in one of the world’s best healthcare systems, degree students will benefit from at least £5,000 a year from the Government in free additional support during their studies.”

Mr Hancock believes the boost of 12,000 more fully qualified nurses working in the NHS over the last year means the government is on target to deliver their target of 50,000 more nurses and midwives by the end of parliament.

The MORI poll has voted nursing as the UK’s most trusted profession for the last four years in a row and Mrs Dowdeswell says the public have a massive amount of respect for them.

She is hopeful the increased interest in the profession will continue and added: “Nurses are honest, genuine and kind, which is exceptionally important when people are at their most vulnerable.”

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