The Council of Deans of Health has said plans to allow student nurses to spend up to a year working as healthcare assistants could put patient safety at risk.
As part of its response to the Francis report the government is proposing students seeking funding for a nursing degree will be required to work for up to a year as a HCA.
In his report following the scandal at Mid Staffordshire Robert Francis suggested students should spend at least three months gaining experience of personal care, supervised by a registered nurse. However, the government has taken this further, extending it to 12 months.
The Council of Deans of Health said an influx of trainees could add more pressure onto existing staff who will have to supervise them.
In a statement Professor Ieuan Ellis, chair of the council said: “There were 198,000 applications to student nursing places in 2012.
“Prospective students spending up to a year working as a healthcare assistant will place an over-stretched health service and its staff under even greater pressure, putting more unqualified people on the wards.
“If this is piloted and evaluated then we will engage with it; but we are clear that if this becomes a blanket provision it will risk patient safety rather than protect it. This is the wrong answer to the wrong question.”
On education standards Professor Ellis added: “Rather than focusing on pre-registration students, we need to concentrate on getting the right numbers and mix of qualified frontline staff, supported by their leaders to deliver high quality care.”
The Royal College of Nursing also said it had “urgent questions” about the policy.
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