The number of people in Fife applying to study nursing has dropped by 15 per cent.
Across the whole of Fife, just 320 people applied, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
And it fears this could have an impact on the future of NHS Fife.
The RCN found that the majority of people who study nursing go on to work locally – meaning Fife could face a shortage in the future.
Across the Kingdom, application rates varied greatly, with the biggest reduction in Kirkcaldy, which also is home to Dundee University’s School of Nursing.
Just 70 people from the town applied – down two per cent.
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Dr Anne Corrin, head of professional learning and development at the RCN, said: “A drop in nursing students in key areas could spell disaster for patients in the local community.
“Nursing students often go on to work for local hospitals or other employers, and fewer students coming through will only worsen the recruitment crisis in the area.
“The number of unfilled nurse jobs is rising as the number in education falls, and whether it’s worried patents’ waiting hours in A&E or an older person who can’t be discharged, people know there are already not enough nurses to provide the care they want for themselves and their loved ones.”
But NHS Fife’s director of nursing, Helen Wright, said efforts were ongoing to make sure it remained an attractive career choice.
Ms Wright said: “Over recent years we have gone to great lengths to make clinical careers here in Fife as attractive as possible, and we have been particularly successful in our recruitment efforts as a result.
“This year alone we have recruited more than 140 nurses and allied health professionals.
“Our relationships with neighbouring academic institutions are particularly important in our recruitment efforts and we have recently expanded our capacity for student nurses from 2019/20.
This allows us an opportunity to sell NHS Fife as an employer to a far greater number of prospective nurses in the expectation that many will choose a career in Fife over other areas.
“It is important to stress also that our efforts have not been limited to the recruitment of newly-qualified staff. We have developed partnerships with local high schools which have seen considerable numbers of young people inFife invited into our hospitals to see our clinical staff in action, and speak tothem about their roles with a view to them choosing a career in healthcare.”
Professor Lynn Kilbride, dean of the school of nursing and health sciences at the University of Dundee, said: “Our recruitment figures for adult nursing in our Fife campus have been consistent over recent years. We recognise the value of recruiting and educating nurses in the local area and work closely with our partners in NHS Fife to ensure we accommodate their needs as much as possible.
“We are hoping to be able to accommodate more students in and from Fife. I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in nursing to explore the many options for study.”