Calls for U-turn on plan to scrap health and social care BTEC

NHS leaders call on education minister to rethink ‘reckless’ plan of scrapping BTEC qualification in health and social care as nursing staffing crisis grows

NHS leaders call on education minister to rethink ‘reckless’ plan of scrapping BTEC qualification in health and social care as nursing staffing crisis grows

Photo of nursing students in a lecture hall
Picture: iStock

Health leaders have warned that thousands of potential nurses could be lost as the government scraps the BTEC qualification in health and social care.

Abolishing courses will exacerbate staffing crisis, says NHS Employers chief executive

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer has written to the government over ‘serious concerns’ that the valuable route into nursing will be blocked to more than 7,000 students a year at a time when trainees are needed more than ever.

Mr Mortimer urged the new education secretary James Cleverly to reconsider the ‘reckless’ move to stop funding by 2024 and said the decision could have a huge effect on the future nursing workforce.

‘Abolishing these important BTEC courses in health and social care is an incredibly short-sighted decision by the government,’ Mr Mortimer said.

‘At a time when the NHS is already extremely short-staffed and has 105,000 vacancies, depriving the health service of a pipeline of fresh nursing, midwifery and other healthcare recruits is reckless and ill-advised and could leave the NHS, as well as our colleagues in social care, to grapple with trying to fill several thousand more vacancies every year in the years to come.’

One fifth of nursing students hold BTEC qualification

Currently about one fifth of nursing students have completed BTEC courses, with 7,122 people entering nursing degrees in 2017 with a BTEC qualification.

In the same year, only 5,945 students entered nursing degree programmes with A-level qualifications.

In his letter Mr Mortimer said government plans to steer nursing students towards T-levels were inadequate and even discriminatory, as they have higher entry requirements and are only open to people aged 16 to 19.

He added that mature students, those from the most deprived areas and with extra learning needs would be the hardest hit.

T-Levels also require a work placement ‘which the NHS and social care settings would not have capacity to provide even with additional funding’.

He called on the Department for Education to undertake an impact assessment focused on the consequences of scrapping BTEC qualifications on the NHS and social care ‘at the very least’.

RCN backs bid to save BTEC qualification

The RCN joined calls for a rethink, with deputy director for nursing education, research and ethics Nichola Ashby saying it is ‘yet another example of the government making it harder, not easier, to get into nursing in England’.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: ‘Our health T-level has been co-created with employers, including the NHS, so that students gain the skills and experience needed to start roles in the health sector and to progress on to university and further study.

‘We will continue to fund BTECs and other qualifications in future where there is a clear need for them so young people have access to high quality options.’

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