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Every potential student nurse to face aptitude test in wake of Francis


Exclusive: Every potential student nurse will in future be interviewed and tested to make sure they have the right values and skills to provide good quality care, Nursing Times can reveal.

Robert Francis QC published his long-awaited Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry report last week, making 290 recommendations aimed at transforming culture in the NHS and safeguarding patients.

In light of the report, Nursing Times has been told plans are being drawn up to ensure anyone seeking a qualification to work in healthcare will have to demonstrate they have the right values and attitudes needed to care for patients.

The work is being led by Health Education England, the new national body responsible for ensuring high quality NHS education, training, and workforce development. It was set up in June as part of the government’s health reforms.

In an interview following the publication of the inquiry report, HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming accepted testing every course applicant was a challenge.

He said: “It’s not something that can happen overnight but I want to see anyone who is entering training – whether it be for nursing, medical or whatever it may be – to show they have the right skills to work in healthcare.

“If people can’t demonstrate the right values and behaviours they should not get jobs in our NHS. It is as simple as that.”

Professor Cumming said there were a number of ways to test applicants and that HEE would not seek “dictate” to universities which method to use. But he noted that HEE would be working with NHS Employers and others to develop a “series of tools” to test the aptitude and behaviours of students, suggesting universities would be encouraged to use a set of standard national tests.

The public inquiry report also recommended the widespread adoption of aptitude tests for qualified staff seeking employment. They are already used by some NHS organisations, especially in the mental health sector.

Highlighting his key message to “put patients first”, Mr Francis called on employers to check job applicants’ “values, attitudes and behaviours towards the well-being of patients and their basic care needs”.

They formed part of a raft of recommendations on education, training and standards in the NHS targeted at bringing about a cultural shift within the NHS.

For example, the report called on the government to “consider urgently” the introduction of a common “requirement of proficiency in communication in the English language” for healthcare staff.

The report also mooted proposals to increase the focus on the practical aspects of nursing care, with a similar increase in nurse development and leadership.

In addition, Mr Francis called for no students to be accepted on to a nursing course without having spent a minimum of three months working on the direct care of patients under the supervision of a registered nurse.

The report called for national standards in nurse training with the same examinations and a common qualification for all nurses.

Mr Francis also said more must be done to ensure trainee clinicians were able to speak up if they had concerns over the quality of care.

Professor Cumming agreed, saying: “We need to make sure trainees are able to report any concerns.”

“Feedback from trainee doctors and nurses is absolutely critical and one of the things we will be working on… is developing real time feedback from trainees on the quality of their training and the quality of care,” he told Nursing times.

Responding to the inquiry report, the Council of Deans of Health said in a statement it was “critical” that health education budgets were “ring-fenced” so the correct numbers of clinicians were coming through the system and continuing professional development for existing staff was maintained.

It said it recognised the report’s “challenge” to ensure education programmes “minimised the gap between theory and practice and emphasise care and compassion alongside technical skills”.

The government is expected to reveal its full response to the Francis report, including which of Mr Francis’s recommendations it will adopt, next month.


Readers' comments (47)

  • Well I never, the GNC test returns!

    July1972 aged 17, interviewed by a Chief Male Nurse and a Senior Nursing Officer, sent to the "School" to have a further interview with the Principal Tutor, then off into a room with another tutor and tested in maths and english against the clock before being sent back to the Chief Male Nurse and given my scores and offered a place. Nigh on a full day before I knew if I was worthy of a place .

    What goes around comes around!

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  • When I was a nurse manager I used to get invited to sit in on the selection process for student nurses. I recall once when reviewing a candidates interview (candidate having left the room) with the panel including course tutor, saying that regardless of whether the candidate was academically bright I would not employ them as a nurse on my unit. The course tutor responded saying that the candidate would achieve the academic requirements of the nursing degree and thus there was no reason to turn the candidate down.
    We need people who want to be nurses not people who want a degree. If you can get both then great.

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  • I went through the same as my friend above!!! I was so proud to have been selected.

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  • back to the good old days - thank goodness, am fed up with working with nurses who don't want to be there. let's make a return to selecting nurses for the right reason and open up the course for the right people.

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  • Phil Luff | 12-Feb-2013 11:34 am

    I had the same experience Phil, and stopped attending interviews as it was a waste of time.

    The pressure is on the Universities to fill places, so they may well "overlook" sub-standard candidates.

    If they do not fill the places their jobs are at risk.

    No contest.

    Bring back the school of nursing and a proper selection process that isn`t dependant on "bums on seats".

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  • michael stone

    This is still all about the 'attitudes' of clinicians - as numerous nurses are complaining that they are too overworked to 'display a caring attitude', clinicians really should not allow this post-Francis debate to concentrate on 'the attitude of clinicians' in isolation from things such as staffing numbers, ratios between HCAs/nurses, 'stupid obstructive diktats from above', unnecessary and time-consuming paperwork imposed from above, etc.

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  • The wheel is slowly becoming re-invented...

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  • this should also apply to everybody entering health care employment involving the administration and management of patient care who has not undergone professional training, regular evaluation, qualification and entry to a professional register.

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  • Agree with Phil Luff. The best of both worlds is attainable, but the selection process is clearly flawed. I have degree in nursing, but started out as a health care assistant. I knew I wanted to be a qualified nurse and had the correct attributes and practical experiences, but also had the academic ability to succeed. I love my job and couldn't think of anything else I'd rather do :)

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  • why can't we return to good, honest and caring human values and basic common sense in our society. concentrating on those who want a degree instead of those who want to be nurses with the option of getting a degree means a lot of excellent and caring people are slipping through the net and the others are passing through the sieve for the wrong reasons and ruining the reputation and ethics of the profession.

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