The chief nursing officer for England chose the University of Cumbria for her first visit to a university, to welcome the latest cohort of north-west trainee nurses who will go on to form the future workforce.

Ruth May visited with a sole purpose of welcoming new students and talking with academic staff in her professional capacity.

On taking up the role in January this year, Ruth was keen to connect with higher education providers, as they nurture trainee nurses who go on to inform the shape and capacity of the future nursing workforce.

On a whistle-stop tour of the Lancaster campus, she met academic staff at the front line of training the new recruits across the university before she addressed the newest cohort of nursing students.

During the meetings she firmly laid out her two key priorities– supporting the supply of undergraduate nurses and continuing professional development for qualified nurses to meet the growing demand in the NHS and abroad.

She said of her visit: “It’s my first time meeting new student nurses here and what a delight they’ve been. It gives me great confidence in the future of the profession.

“I’m looking forward to seeing them again in three years, when they get their pins and welcoming even more nurses into the profession.”

It is widely accepted that there is a major shortage of nurses across the UK. The Royal College of Nursing has launched a campaign arguing for safe staffing levels saying that patient safety is at risk due to a shortage of 40,000 nurses in England.

As a major nursing provider, the university plays a key role in training new nurses as well as providing ongoing education for registered nurses - and sees the nursing profession is pivotal to the future of health care.

Pro vice-chancellor for health, Professor Brian Webster-Henderson, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Ruth came to meet our new student nurse and provide them with an inspirational insight into the importance of nursing and its major contribution to the future of healthcare.

“The higher education sector is key to addressing the workforce shortages currently challenging the NHS and this visit demonstrates the importance of partnership working.”

Dani Skelding, 21, who is studying adult nursing at the University of Cumbria, was one of the trainee nurses in the audience.

She said: “It was incredible hearing from Ruth, it is a great opportunity considering her role and level. It was so unique to have the opportunity to ask her questions and hear her views.

“Now I am excited to get started and learn more about the modules we will be studying and then begin placement in November and really get stuck into the course.”