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Millions more may be spent on training for HCAs and support staff

Millions of pounds could be invested in the training and development of lower paid NHS staff to help them progress into nursing and other professional roles.

Health Education England is considering boosting the proportion of the £5bn education and training budget that it currently spends on the lowest-paid NHS staff by 1% a year for five years.

The move forms part of Health Education England’s national programme to develop those in the lower bands of the Agenda for Change pay framework. The National Bands 1-4 Project was launched in October last year with the aim of improving opportunities for NHS career progression, especially for young people.

“I can’t see how there would not be consequences for other workforce groups”

Howard Catton

The education and training body is currently developing proposals for the strategy. These could include boosting the number of apprenticeships available and the creation of “skills escalators” for all band 1 to 4 staff. This would allow some to access graduate programmes, leading to more joining professions such as nursing and midwifery.

Papers linked to the project said: “As part of our development of this strategy we would set an aim to increase the proportion of funding available for education and training for staff in posts banded 1 to 4.

“Realistically, this could be set at 1% growth each year for five years,” stated the document seen by Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal.

Health Education England has not clarified how much this would mean in cash terms, describing it as a “broad indication”.

Stephen Welfare, managing director of Health Education East of England and national lead for the National Bands 1-4 Project, said no final decisions had yet been made on the strategy or funding.

HEE East of England

Stephen Welfare

Encouraging more staff from bands 1 to 4 into nursing is being seen as one way to help tackle a looming retirement bulge in nursing. A labour market review by the Royal College of Nursing in 2010 predicted 200,000 nurses could retire by 2020.

RCN head of policy Howard Catton said: “We would absolutely recognise there is a need for investment in bands 1 to 4.

“However, the 1% is news to me and it does raise some really important questions over the detail. I can’t see how there would not be consequences for other [workforce] groups.”

The 470,000 staff in bands 1 to 4 make up around 40% of the NHS’s 1.4 million workforce in England, and includes around 271,000 healthcare assistants. Staff in these bands are responsible for an estimated 60% of direct patient contact. 

In March, the government announced plans for a Nursing Higher Apprenticeship. The programme is targeted at the “brightest and best” HCAs, who may not have the qualifications they need to do a nursing degree at university.

Health Education England and the Nursing and Midwifery Council are about to embark on a national review of education and training standards for nurses and HCAs.

News of the increased investment comes ahead of a major review of nurse education and training in by Health Education England and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (page 5).

Readers' comments (7)

  • Pussy

    Look RN training is either degree standard or it's not! if it is then candidates need to be educated to A level and all this talk about skills escalators is total nonsense.

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  • I know plenty hcas with loads of experience in care settings continually struggling to get into Nursing, not even being selected for the interview after applying. And many of them with the right qualifications. How is that possible? It amazes me. Nhs and universities always spending valuable resources trying to get the right people for the profession, people commited to caring, passionate, compassionate, great in the famous 6 cs. But they keep failing great and bright Hcws in the interviews, big time. So they are good enough to perform greatly and deliver high quality care as hcws but a high percentage keep being rejected by universities in terms of not showing enough skills during the interviews. This article is a joke for all those who at the end of the pretty intentions and words, are fighting against a cold wall. It is bad enough that these amazing carers are get paid peanuts for what they do but it is a shame that they are not given the real opportunity to excel also as nurses.

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  • I trained in the 1970's when you had SRN's or SEN's. There was talk then of a two tier nursing system and eventually they combined the two. Now the profession is to become all degree status. It seems that this is leading to a shortage of nurses, therefore there is a need to train HCA's to a higher level. Once qualified a nurse was always able to go on to study at higher academic level, which still left those with a good educational level to remain in the clinical environment providing excellent clinical role models. I am not sure the changes over the years have improved the profession!

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  • jane smith; hi, I have A and O levels in all aspects of care ie the full spectrum of care with tons of expereance and have trained novice's into care if I personnaly trained for twelve months one or two days a week I would be trained.
    never judge a person if you are a good nurse be a good nurse don't be judgemental
    embrace these very expereanced nursing aux,care ass, support workers,HCA, what ever can be a BIG,BIG help to you look after them and they may look after you.
    good luck everyone

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  • I am one of those who would love to train as a nurse, unfortunately I have just missed out on enough points to go to my local university which as it is Russell Group University has higher entry standards for the course, than some others. I am not in a position to move away from home to train. I am working as a HCA for NHS professionals but cannot apply for a position at my local Trust as they ask for NVQ2 as a minimum which I don't have either as I have a Access Qualification. NHSP because of the nature of Bank doesn't enable you to study NVQ2 as you need a permanent mentor so I am really stuck going nowhere and there are loads of other bank HCA's like me.

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  • cheap labour, soon there wont be any registered nurses, then health care support workers will go , all to be replaces by volunteers working for free

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  • Jane Smith-I have worked as an A/N for 17 years,after qualifying as a Primary Teacher.I come across plenty graduates working as HCA's.Please don't assume HCA's are not educated people!

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