THE latest class of student nurses have started their first work placement this week at a hospital trust.

After starting their nursing studies with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in September, a total of 172 students commenced their first ward and community placements with East Lancashire Hospitals Trust.

The large number of new student nurses studying at UCLan continues the upward trend following a record number of 152 student nurses joining the trust last year.

Christine Pearson, executive director of nursing for the trust said: “My colleagues and I extend a warm welcome to all our new student nurses.

"I’d like to congratulate them in their career choice and wish them every success during their time here at East Lancashire Hospitals.”

“The trust has an excellent reputation for providing high quality nurse education and training and this is reflected in the fact that more and more student nurses consider East Lancashire Hospitals as their employer of choice.

"The trust and its patients benefit from students who join the outstanding nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants who are already building their careers with us.”

The latest student nurse intake includes 152 adult and 20 paediatric students who undertake a three-year nursing degree programme.

It includes classroom-based teaching at UCLan, simulated clinical skills and hands-on practical experience with the trust.

Ms Pearson added: “Despite a national shortage, the trust continues to attract more nurses and today employs more than 2,300 registered nurses and midwives to care for patients at our five hospitals, and in the community.

“Working in partnership with UCLan to train nurses has enabled us to grow our own workforce, create opportunities for our own staff, and have nurses who share our values to provide safe, personal and effective care for every patient."

News of the new student nurses comes amid concerns about the high number of nursing vacancies at the trust and across the region.

NHS data shows 1,037 vacant registered nursing and midwifery posts at the trust were advertised between April 2017 and March last year, although hospital chiefs strongly dispute the figures.

Data also showed there were 501 advertised vacancies at the county’s main mental health organisation Lancashire Care Foundation Trust and nine at North West Ambulance Service.

In the North West, there were 5,142 vacant registered nursing and midwifery posts advertised between January and March last year, up from 3,726 for the same period in 2016.