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Nursing degree apprenticeship spending boost falls short, says RCN

More support for three-year nursing degree students ‘the fastest way to get more nurses’
Uptake for the nursing degree apprenticeship programme has been poor

More support for full-time three-year nursing degree students the fastest way to get more nurses

A multi-million pound government investment in the troubled nursing degree apprenticeship scheme falls short of what is needed, the RCN has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the new package, worth up to 172 million, will enable healthcare employers to take on up to 2,000 nursing degree apprentices every year over the next four years.

Problems with take-up of the nurse degree apprenticeship scheme

Under the scheme, apprentice employers will receive 8,300 per placement per year for new and existing apprenticeships.

The move comes after a lacklustre response to the programme in terms of applicant numbers in its first four years.

In England 1,790 nursing

More support for full-time three-year nursing degree students ‘the fastest way to get more nurses’

 Tim George
Take-up in the first four years of the programme has been poor Picture: Tim George

A multi-million pound government investment in the troubled nursing degree apprenticeship scheme falls short of what is needed, the RCN has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the new package, worth up to £172 million, will enable healthcare employers to take on up to 2,000 nursing degree apprentices every year over the next four years.

Problems with take-up of the nurse degree apprenticeship scheme

Under the scheme, apprentice employers will receive £8,300 per placement per year for new and existing apprenticeships.

The move comes after a lacklustre response to the programme in terms of applicant numbers in its first four years.

In England 1,790 nursing degree apprentices in total have undertaken the programme across health and social care settings – far fewer than the 1,000 per year the government promised when the scheme was first announced four years ago.

The scheme was plagued with issues from the beginning, after it emerged that only 30 apprentices had started in the role.

Spending boost designed to counter prohibitive costs

 Wikimedia
Health and social care secretary
Matt Hancock Picture: Wikimedia

A 2018 cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the scheme heard evidence from NHS Employers that the cost to an employer of training a nursing degree apprentice was £34,358 per year, per apprentice, making it prohibitive.

But the government says its latest funding boost will enable employers to meet the costs of taking on apprentices.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: '‘Nursing apprenticeships allow students to earn as they learn and this new funding will enable healthcare employers to hire thousands more.’

Improve funding for nursing degrees instead

 ‘The government must abolish self-funded tuition fees for all nursing students’
RCN director for England Mike Adams

However, RCN director for England Mike Adams said that, while welcome, the new initiative did not go far enough and the government should offer more support for degree students to build nurse numbers as quickly as possible.

‘It is also the case that a full-time three-year nursing degree remains the fastest way to deliver a registered nurse through education,’ he said.

‘The government must abolish self-funded tuition fees for all nursing students, as well as introducing universal living maintenance grants that reflect actual student need if it is truly committed to delivering the 50,000 more nurses it promised.’

Nursing degree apprentices undertake a four-year programme, are paid in excess of £15,000 per year and do not have to pay tuition fees.


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