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Plans to allow nurses to train as doctors are met with caution by nursing leaders

Professor criticises ‘hare-brained’ proposals, while RCN says standards must not slip

Professor criticises ‘hare-brained’ proposals, while RCN says standards must not slip


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Government proposals to allow nurses to train as doctors to address NHS staff vacancies have been met with caution by nursing leaders.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said leaving the EU would make it easier for healthcare professionals in the UK to retrain in different disciplines, rather than requiring them to start from square one on ‘inflexible, fixed-length courses’.

He added: ‘Without being bound by EU regulations, we can focus on ensuring our workforce has the necessary training that is best suited to them and their experience, without ever compromising on our high standards of care or on patient safety,’ he said.

Professor says move would further deplete nursing numbers

University of Plymouth professor of leadership in nursing Bridie Kent said numbers of nurses and other healthcare professionals wanting to move into medicine or switch to other disciplines were ‘very low’, and that encouraging movement could be detrimental to the vacancy-ridden nursing workforce.

Nursing is not ‘a quick way to get into medicine’

‘It strikes me as another hare-brained scheme,’ she said.

‘We get really good applicants for nursing who are clear that the reasons they want to go into nursing are about the profession’s values, not because it is a quick or alternative way to get into medicine.

‘Depleting an existing workforce that is already under strain doesn’t make sense – there is certainly no surplus of registered nurses.

‘I don’t think these plans will make any difference at all to the NHS recruitment crisis.’

RCN director of nursing, policy and practice Susan Masters warned that standards of education ‘must remain high’ and that the college would be looking closely at how proposals to increase the flexibility of training might achieve this. 

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe agreed that training standards must not slip, and said the organisation would work with the government to ensure the proposals were ‘soundly based, deliverable and in people’s best interests’.

‘Half-baked ideas without any detail’

Birmingham City University head of adult nursing Kevin Crimmons was critical of the government’s plans.  

‘They send out these half-baked ideas without providing any detail, and I feel all that does is unsettle what is an already fragile workforce,’ he said.

‘There is no detail about the type of awards available, no detail about entry qualifications – our profession has only been a graduate one since 2011, so by registered nurses do they mean those with a degree already, which would preclude a whole section of our workforce.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said no dates or further details had been decided but added that no changes to training routes would take place until December at the earliest and would need approval from the relevant regulator.

‘We are clear that any changes to training and qualification routes for healthcare professions will need to be developed in conjunction with a range of stakeholders, and will only be taken forward where they continue to deliver the existing high standards,' they said. 


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