A major review of pre- and post-registration training for nurses and midwives in England is to be carried out to improve standards of patient care, Nursing Times can reveal.
Health Education England and the Nursing and Midwifery Council will launch the review in May to specifically investigate the standard of education provided to around 60,000 nursing and midwifery students each year.
The Shape of Caring Review, which will be led by Lord Willis of Knaresborough, will also consider the standard of post-registration training for the NHS nurses once they have qualified. The review is due to produce a final report by early next year.
It follows concerns over the standard of nurse training raised by the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
As part of its work, the review will examine the controversial pre-nursing experience pilots that have seen around 160 students work as healthcare assistants for a year before starting courses, and which were a key plank of the government’s initial response to the Francis report.
“We don’t work hard enough to get the right people on training programmes to start with”
In a statement, Health Education England said: “The review will make recommendations for the improvement of pre- and post-registration nursing and HCA education and training.
“This should produce healthcare professionals of high calibre, who are able to meet the changing needs of patients and the broader population.”
Professor Katherine Fenton, chief nurse at University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust, told Nursing Times there were weaknesses in the way nurses were currently being trained, with “too much variation between universities”.
She said a review of nurse training was “long overdue”. “We don’t work hard enough to get the right people on the training programmes to start with; I don’t think we make sure they have the strengths and commitment to the profession when they first start and I believe they need to spend longer in clinical practice than they are now,” she said.
Helen Ryan, director of nursing at Yeovil District Hospital Foundation Trust, agreed there was variation around pre-registration training.
She argued there should be a focus on the final few months students spent training as well as the first six to nine months as newly qualified nurses. “We have quite a lot to learn from the foundation programme that doctors go through,” she said.
But Professor Ieuan Ellis, chair of the Council of Deans of Health, said he was concerned the review would duplicate work already underway by “multiple different projects and working groups”.
“This group needs to reflect on the reviews that have already happened, some quite recently – otherwise there will be a lot of duplication going on,” he added.
Jackie Kelly, head of nursing at the University of Hertfordshire, pointed out that the NMC had already imposed new standards for pre-registration courses in 2010, and stressed 50% of nursing students time was spent in a clinical setting away from the classroom.
She said: “We have already gone a long way and I wouldn’t want the review to move in a direction of travel before we have seen the output from the new standards agreed in 2010.”
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “The vast majority of nurses are highly caring and compassionate, upholding the traditions and values of profession, and putting patients first to provide the best possible care despite often difficult circumstances and overstretched resources.
“Any drive to ensure the culture in all organisations in the NHS is one that puts patient care first is welcome,” he said. “Nurse education and recruitment is just one aspect of this drive, along with strong leadership and the right numbers of staff in the right areas.”