Hunt announces 25% more nurse training posts

Jeremy Hunt at the 2017 Conservative Party conference in Manchester
Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a 25% increase in nurse training places as well as a package of measures to help retain staff.

The Government will fund clinical placements for an additional 5,170 pre-registration nurse degrees from next year, building on the 10,000 more training places for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals announced in August this year.

A further 5,000 new “nursing associates” will be trained through apprenticeships in 2018, and an additional 7,500 being trained in 2019.

Hunt said: “The NHS will be looking after a million more over-75s in just a decade, so we need to jump-start nurse training.

“This represents the biggest increase in nurse training places in the history of the NHS – and we will make sure that many of the additional places go to healthcare assistants training on hospital sites. This will allow us to expand our nurse workforce with some highly experienced people already working on the NHS frontline.”

A new shortened nurse degree apprenticeship will also be introduced for qualified nursing associates who wish to work towards full registered nurse status.

“We will also improve retention rates amongst our current workforce, introducing new arrangements to support flexible working available to all NHS staff, and a new right of first refusal for affordable housing built on NHS property,” added Hunt. “Combined with the 25% increase in undergraduate medical school places announced last year it will transform the ability of the NHS to cope with the pressures ahead.”

The Department of Health said it will explore opportunities for higher education institutes to deliver innovative formal classroom teaching in employers’ facilities.

The measures aim to reduce the reliance on overseas recruitment by boosting the supply of home-grown nurses.

Other measures announced included:

  • arrangements to support flexible working to help staff to balance work-life commitment;
  • a system of staff banks for flexible workers across the NHS, increasing opportunities for NHS staff to work on NHS terms and reduce agency costs;
  • ‘Homes for Nurses’ scheme – which will give 3,000 NHS workers first refusal on affordable housing generated through the sale of surplus NHS land.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s chief executive Jackie Smith said: “If the necessary changes to our legislation go through on time, we would expect nursing associates who have completed their training and met our standards to join the register in January 2019. Those standards will ensure a clear distinction between the graduate registered nurse and the nursing associate.

“The Government has always been clear that nursing associate will be a profession in its own right and for those who want to progress to become a registered nurse, we are working closely with education providers to establish what additional training is required to meet our standards.”

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “It’s about time the Government addressed the impact of their decision to scrap the nursing bursary. Young people have been put off training to become nurses because of this shortsighted policy.

“Unison strongly supports apprenticeships for nurses, but these only work if the Government provides sufficient support and funding. Only a handful of the new nursing apprenticeships promised by the Government last year have actually materialised, because employers say they cost too much. The future of our country’s nursing needs proper investment, not piecemeal handouts.”

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