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Caring experience to be compulsory for new nurse recruits


Ministers are considering whether to require aspiring nurses to complete a year’s caring experience before they are accepted onto a degree course.

In the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry report, published last month, Robert Francis QC recommended that student nurses spend at least three months working on direct care of patients under the supervision of a registered nurse.

He said it should be a “pre-condition for continuation in nurse training” and could include work as a healthcare assistant.

Nursing Times learnt yesterday that the government was considering announcing plans to pilot such a scheme as part of its formal response to the Francis report, which will be published later today.

However, ministers are going further than Mr Francis and instead favour a period of at least one year, with students taking on a role equivalent to that of a healthcare assistant.

Such a proposal is likely to receive a mixed response from the profession, potentially sparking concerns about its impact on recruitment.

The response also sets out plans to introduce value-based recruitment to nursing courses and the development of widely-used aptitude tests.

Full details are expected in the full response to the Francis report later today, though the policy was trailed in the national press this morning.

In a statement, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Frontline, hands-on caring experience and values need to be equal with academic training.

“These measures are about recruiting all staff with the right values and giving them the training they need to do their job properly, so that patients are treated with compassion.”

Another measure expected to be announced is that hospitals and other healthcare providers, such as GP practices, will be subject to a statutory duty of candour.

Among the other topics likely to be covered by the response are HCA regulation, supernumerary status for ward managers, minimum nurse staffing levels and nursing older patients.  

Nursing Times will be reporting live on the government’s response to the Francis report’s 290 recommmendations, following its publication.


Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.


Readers' comments (27)

  • Don't we already have something similar - the Cadet scheme

    However, if we accept that the concept of a academic institution-based training is flawed and returned to a (modified) 'apprentiship' model, there would be no need to this latest bag of baloney

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  • who says that these students having the compulsory caring experience are having the right experience. Obviously they were not delivering the right care experience in Mid Staffs, and I assume students were being taught there. This is a knee jerk reaction and I would go as far as saying passing the buck

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  • Good - things go in cycles- this suggestion reminds me of how I was trained at the bedside doing nursing care.The only thing is that it should not be called HCA work, but nursing work. If the nurses learned basic care, they would be able to work with the HCA's more closely. Most hospital inpatients need basic care, rather than tests and machines to help them get better. Need to think about job purpose, and not treat basic nursing in a derogatory way.

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  • Sandra Joyce Powell

    So does this mean that we are going to return to nurse training. and when these student nurses are doing the caring training,Will they be paid a decent living wage. and will this also mean that the training will take four years instead of three. questions questions all need answers.

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  • This is proof that nurse training is not 'fit for practice' and needs to be taken out of the hands of universities. For too long the opinion of anyone who suggests that ward experience needs to be a greater part of training has been dismissed as out of date. Education is a vital part of nurse training but there is no reason why this should not go hand in hand with work on the wards instead of leaving would be students to find placements that might not be of the best quality. These days placements seem to be dependent on where students can be stuffed - we are always being asked to take more than we can manage as placements are so scarce and students can get well along the course without ever setting foot on a ward.

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  • There is something to be said for returning to paid nurse training, with the degree to follow in the third / fourth year. There are, of course, counter arguments; such as, everyone expects a degree course, we can't get new recruits, lower status of trainees. But surely there are some good curriculum planners who could work this out. Regarding patient-centred care: what is the purpose of nurse training? What is a good grounding before specialising? Are the specialists higher status than the general wards nurses, and, if so, why?

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  • Sad to note it is being left to government ministers to put these measures in place. As a profession, we ought to be able to come up with effective and lasting solutions to poor standards of care (not that it should ever happen in the first place). It is obvious to anyone with half an eye that mainly academic training is not the answer to a profession who must address and furthermore understand, how deal with the basic needs of the patients.

    More than time to take steps and make training fit the job it is desgned to do, in an effective manner

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  • Back To Basics, AGAIN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Seem to remember that from a few years back, then we sent our students to University instead.

    Round and Round we go.

    I`m getting dizzy.

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  • This is just history repeating itself at the end of the day you are either a good nurse or you are not and no amount of training can turn you into something you are not basically I as a mentor have met students who at first were nervious but with the right encouragement/teaching went on to be very good nurses. Then they are the ones who see nursing as something to do as they did not get the actual career they wanted hence go through the motions but have no interest in patients etc. The problem is how to stop those type of people come into the profession.

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  • michael stone

    We still need to see the detail of this.

    However, there was a furore about ' the need for a caring attitude', and it always struck me that assessing such an attitude in a pre-course candidate, is hugely challenging. So I suspect this idea, probably stems from moving 'assessing' a caring attitude, to 'show you could 'express' a caring attitude, by having done it for a year, before we will let you start to train as a nurse'.

    However, a year is a long time, and nursing courses do have a fair bit of 'academic' content these days: I think this year, might usefully involve weeks with perhaps 4 days as an HCA, and the fifth day being used to 'introduce' the type of academic teaching that nurses receive - but that probably requires more direct intervention, than the goverment is going to put in (my suspicion, is they will tell appplicants to find a one-year HCA job themself, then apply for nursign courses at the end of that year).

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