STUDENT nursing and midwifery places will reach a record high in the next academic year as staffing pressures in NHS Scotland continue.

More than 4000 students will be taken on in 2019-20 – 280 more than this session and the seventh consecutive rise. The largest boost will be in learning disability nursing, followed by mental health nursing and midwifery.

Bursary payments will also rise to £8100 and £10,000 the following year.

The steps are part of measures to bolster NHS staff recruitment and retention in the face of warnings over workforce planning and staffing levels.

Further actions include about 460 former nurses and midwives retraining through the Return to Practice scheme since 2015 and some 116 nursing students having their Open University pre-registration programme funded by the Scottish Government.

Details were confirmed by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman on a visit to Glasgow Caledonian University, one of Scotland’s largest providers of nursing education.

The minister, who succeeded Shona Robison, stated: “We are acutely aware of the demand across Scotland in a variety of settings and I want to ensure our NHS is well equipped to continue to provide the best possible care for patients.

“We are determined to ensure we recruit and retain the next generation of staff to meet these needs.

“That is why we are again increasing nursing and midwifery student intake, with more than 4000 places available in 2019/20.”

Eileen McKenna, of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: “This is a much-needed increase in the number of student places and we are pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to our concerns and recognised that Scotland needs more nurses.

“Demand for health and social care continues to increase, nursing vacancy rates are at an all-time high and a significant number of nurses are reaching an age where they can retire.

She added: “Having the right number of nurses to meet demand

is a fundamental step for the safety of patients and in ensuring that nurses are able to remain in the profession.”

And Dr Mary Ross-Davie, director for Scotland for the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The RCM is pleased that the Scottish Government have listened to us.

“Today’s announcement on additional student midwife training places in Scotland is good news not only for our maternity services, but particularly for those wanting to become midwives.”

She added: “These additional midwife training places were really needed and will go towards future proofing Scotland’s maternity services to ensure that women and their babies will continue to receive safe high quality maternity care.”