Nursing degree apprenticeships a 'drop in the ocean' say health academics

Planned nursing degree apprenticeships will be ‘a drop in the ocean’ and will not solve the nursing workforce shortage, say nursing academics.
Dame Jessica Corner

Planned nursing degree apprenticeships will be ‘a drop in the ocean’ and will not solve the nursing workforce shortage, say nursing academics.

The Council of Deans of Health (CoDoH), which represents UK universities offering nursing and midwifery courses, also said opportunities combining working and studying to qualify as a registered nurse were not new.

 Chris Balcombe
Dame Jessica Corner says more opportunities to qualify as a nurse would be welcome
Picture: Chris Balcombe

On Wednesday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt unveiled further details of the new scheme which begins in 2017 and will see up to 1,000 student nurses train on the job, rather than completing a traditional degree. 

Strong case for national campaign

CoDoH chair Dame Jessica Corner said: ‘More opportunities to [qualify as a nurse] are welcome, providing they are properly resourced and education standards are consistent, whatever routes students come through.’

‘We should also be clear this will not solve the nursing workforce shortage.

‘With 20,000 student nursing places in England each year, 1,000 apprentices who may take five years to join the workforce are a drop in the ocean.’

Professor Corner added that the quickest way to boost the supply of nurses was to recruit more people through conventional programmes and retain them in the workforce long term.

‘Given the pressures on the NHS, there is a strong case for a national campaign to promote nursing as a career alongside measures to support nurses in the workplace.’

Care needed

RCN general secretary Janet Davies welcomed the government’s recognition of the need to increase nurse numbers, in the face of 24,000 nursing vacancies across the UK.

Ms Davies said: ‘Flexible entry into nursing has always been important, to get the right nurse and enable wide access to the profession. For many years, universities have worked hard to achieve this.

‘While this new apprenticeship model will provide a different opportunity, we need to be careful their clinical experience is a learning environment and they have access to graduate level education.

‘Nursing has progressed over many years, we must be careful to learn from the lessons of the past when student nurses were often seen as nursing on the cheap.'

Ms Davies also warned against the scheme creating a two-tier system which reduced equality of opportunity and to ensure people of all ages and diversity of background enter the profession.

‘[An expert workforce] can only be achieved if the right level of university education, supervised clinical experience in a learning environment with substantial mentoring and supervision are available.’

NMC pre-registration standards will apply

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) chief executive Jackie Smith said: ‘We have worked closely with the government and other partners on the development of the nursing degree apprenticeship.’

Ms Smith said those on the apprenticeship pathway would be trained against the NMC’s pre-registration standards.

‘Ensuring all nurses joining the NMC’s register are equipped with the right skills, knowledge and experience to deliver safe and effective care' she added.

Further information

Jeremy Hunt unveils further details of nursing degree apprenticeships scheme

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