The Department for Health and Social Care is to enable healthcare employers to take on up to 8,000 nursing degree apprentices over the next four years, following a surge in the number of people seeking information on the NHS careers site.
The nursing degree apprenticeship is available in adult, children, mental health and learning disability specialisms and typically lasts four years, after which students can qualify as fully registered nurses. NHS and social care employers currently train about 1,000 nurse apprentices every year.
The number of people looking for information on nursing careers on the NHS website rose 138% during lockdown, according to the government.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “I’m thrilled to see a rising interest in nursing careers, but we must ensure this fantastic career is truly diverse and open to all.
“Nursing apprenticeships allow students to earn as they learn and this new funding will enable healthcare employers to hire thousands more, helping us to deliver 50,000 more nurses by the end of this Parliament.”
NHS and private healthcare employers will receive £8,300 per placement per year. Nursing degree apprentices already receive a salary and have their tuition costs paid for through the apprenticeship programme. The funding will enable employers to meet the costs of taking on apprentices, including staffing costs while apprentices receive their training.
Mike Adams, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) director for England, welcomed the increase in funding but said it “falls short of the wider investment needed to educate enough registered nurses for the future, ensuring health and care services have the staff needed”.
He said the full-time three-year nursing degree remains the best way to increase domestic nursing supply at the scale and pace needed, adding: “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 on delivering the 50,000 more nurses they promised.”
In addition to this funding, which will cost up to £172m, employers in England will also benefit from the payment announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak last month of £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25, and £1,500 for each new apprentice they hire aged 25 and over, up until 31 January 2021.
Dennis Little, head of workforce development and education at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Trust, said: “We introduced the registered nurse degree apprenticeship to allow experienced healthcare professionals at our trust to train as registered nurses at the University of Sunderland. The programme has allowed our apprentices to utilise the knowledge and experience they have gained through providing high-quality patient care in their nurse training.”
A recent RCN survey of 42,000 nursing staff showed that 36% were considering leaving the profession, with most saying pay was a factor in their decision.