Mumsnet, online degrees and more CPD funding: government ideas to boost nurse numbers

Interim NHS People Plan also includes creation of a ‘compassionate workplace culture’

Interim NHS People Plan also includes creation of a ‘compassionate workplace culture’

Online nursing degrees could start to be developed in the autumn. Picture: iStock

A return to practice campaign with parenting website Mumsnet, online degrees, and more clinical placements, are just some methods the government wants to use to tackle the nursing workforce crisis in England.

The Interim NHS People Plan, published today, sets out how the NHS should recruit, retain and develop staff in England. It states that addressing nursing workforce shortages is the ‘most urgent challenge’.

Giving nurses a voice

The plan outlines how the NHS must become a ‘modern employer’ that improves support for nurses and other health service staff by:

  • Creating a compassionate workplace culture that tackles bullying, harassment and violence in the workplace.
  • A focus on education and training for the workforce, so that nurses can develop their careers.
  • Ensuring nurses feel they have a voice, control and influence in the NHS through their organisation supporting whistle-blowing, physical and mental well-being, and flexible working.

Mumsnet campaign page

The plan also provides details of a marketing campaign with the Mumsnet website to inspire more nurses to return to practice, and to make them aware of the opportunities and support available.

CPD funding

The plan repeats a pledge made by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens earlier this year to restore funding for nurses’ continuing professional development (CPD). 

CPD investment fell from around £205 million in 2013-14 to around £120 million in 2018-19. The plan says the aim is to restore CPD budgets to previous levels over the next five years.

International recruitment also needs to be boosted to secure ‘rapid increases in supply’, the plan adds, but no specific target is mentioned.

Initiatives for nursing education planned for 2019-20 

  • Increasing the number of hospital and community clinical placements for nursing students by 5,000 for the September 2019 intake.
  • A review of how clinical placements are undertaken, and exploring whether methods such as group coaching would help provide a ‘positive experience’ and train greater numbers of nurses
  • Further movement regarding online nursing degrees, first announced earlier this year. The plan says the idea of a blended learning nursing degree programme, where some of the theoretical component is delivered online, is being explored. 'We will be calling for expressions of interest from higher education institutions before the summer and will then work with them and the Nursing and Midwifery Council to develop proposals in the autumn,' the plan adds.
  • A review of the Learning Support Fund – which replaced the bursary for nursing students – to improve access to, and awareness of, funding. 

RELATED: Hardship payments rise as students struggle without the bursary

  • Tackling attrition on nursing courses by working with providers so that students are ‘well prepared’ for each practice placement, plus developing a standard definition for attrition for all healthcare programmes to ensure it is recorded. 

COMMENT: Why I decided to quit my nursing course

  • A recruitment campaign encouraging people into nursing, with a focus on high vacancy areas such as learning disability nursing.


The Interim NHS People Plan forms part of the implementation of the NHS Long Term Plan, which sets out the government's ten-year blueprint for the NHS. 

It has been developed with a number of health organisations, including the RCN, NHS Improvement and Health Education England.

Patricia Marquis

RCN England director Patricia Marquis said: ‘This document begins to tackle the real issues but many will reserve final judgement until funding levels and practical details are revealed.’ 

Plan requires ‘money and people’

Health thinktank the Nuffield Trust’s chief executive Nigel Edwards said the plan would need to be ‘backed up with money and people’. 

‘A good culture won’t make much headway when staff are seeing unsafe shortages every day,’ he added.

A full version of the NHS People Plan will be published following the government’s next spending review.

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