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Boosting nurse training places 'key' to reducing agency spend

  • 16 Comments

The number of staff being trained to work in the NHS is “inadequate”, costing the health service billions as it is forced to recruit agency and overseas staff instead, a think-tank has warned.

Increased investment from the government must be provided to train more home grown staff and reduce over-reliance on expensive overseas recruitment trips and costly temporary workers, it said.

“We should not be fearful of increasing NHS staff training numbers by a much larger amount”

Civitas report

The think-tank – which looked at training policies for healthcare assistants, nurses and doctors in the UK – also called for healthcare workers that have their training paid for by the NHS to be required to work for the service for a minimum period before being allowed to work elsewhere.

The report by Civitas highlighted that agency nurses can be paid between £24 to £29 an hour, equivalent to an annual salary of up to £56,000. This compares to an NHS band 5 nurse being paid between £21,478 and £27,901 a year.

Current annual NHS spending on agency nurses – thought to be £1bn – could fund three years of training for around 19,600 student nurses, claims the report, called Training our NHS Health Workers: Should the UK train more of its staff?

If all these trainees were to go onto work for the NHS, they would almost fill the estimated 20,000 whole-time equivalent extra nurses currently required by the health service, it added.

“NHS ‘in house’ training could [require] newly trained staff… to work for the NHS for a set period of time”

Civitas report

It also pointed to recent cuts to nurse degree training places in the UK – a 13% reduction from 25,904 in 2010-11 to 21,529 in 2012-13 – with around 20,000 places available in the current year.

This has been met with an increase in nurse training places for England for 2015-16 – a 4% boost of 827 – but is not enough, according to the report.

“We should not be fearful of increasing NHS staff training numbers by a much larger amount,” stated the report.

A significant boost to training places would not only save the NHS money, but would lead to improved quality of patient care, it added.

In addition, as wards and departments became fully staffed with permanent employees, this would create better working conditions and therefore improve employee retention rates, stated the report.

It acknowledged that increased training places could lead to competition for NHS posts, possibly having the opposite effect and causing many staff to leave their positions to work abroad or seek employment in other areas, such as healthcare consultancy or research.

“To counter this possible problem, NHS ‘in house’ training could be undertaken with the understanding that newly-trained staff be required to work for the NHS for a set period of time before being permitted to work elsewhere,” said the report.

“A larger dependable permanent staff pool would result in enhanced workforce stability and patient safety”

Edmund Stubbs

Researcher Edmund Stubbs, who wrote the report, said: “It is evident that a lack of staff – or at least of staff willing to enter some specialities – is currently leading to excessive spending on agency staff, locums and overseas recruitment and exhausting financial resources that could be better used in training and employing full time staff.”

He added: “At present staff shortages in less desirable specialities are met by employing overseas trained, locum and agency staff at great expense and with a possible risk of reduced care quality and patient safety.

“A larger dependable permanent staff pool would result in enhanced workforce stability and patient safety,” he said.

Workforce planning body Health Education England said it was unable to comment due to mandatory restrictions imposed upon government announcements in the run-up to the election.

  • 16 Comments

Readers' comments (16)

  • There is certainly not a lack of people who would like to train to be nurses, I am currently waiting to hear whether I have been successful in getting a place on a nursing degree. There are a total of 12 places on the course I have applied for, there were hundreds of applicants! The NHS could well be loosing a lot of great people due to a lack of training places which is a great shame.

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  • I would love to do my training, but having spent several years working in the NHS in another role I can't afford to leave work to commit to the full time training hours required by the NMC even on "part time" courses. In house training and more part time places would be beneficial to the number and type of people who can train to be nurses. I cant be the only one who thinks this way?

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  • I have worked for the NHS for five years. I have wanted to do my Nurse training for the last four. I have finally got an interview with a University to start in September. many nurses I have worked with have been seconded by the Trust. This is not available anymore as there is no money left. So now I have to leave the role I love in order to pursue a better career and to better myself. The NHS are losing so many good staff members because of this. Bring back this funding and support the people that deserve to better themselves.

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  • wait till the government stops the enhancements things will change?
    I feel I deserve and a good many others do

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  • I am working with many people who have had to give up their training because of financial reasons.
    They are working as HCAs and are brilliant and frustrated.
    Give access to people who are passionate about nursing, not only those who are academically gifted.

    The photo above here shows women in front of a computer, there is not a patient in sight.
    Speaks volumes.

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  • ana

    what you say is right and fantastic,BUT we are the monkeys not the organgrinder,it like myself that has been down graded to a band 2 what cance have we got unless you
    are a band 5/6they don't want to know they go banging on about training I assure you the is no jobs at the end. I know plenty of dedicated first year nurses that have resulted to doing hca bank,its ok doing the training and being passionate about thepatients but what about YOU!!!!!!!!!

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  • So really you are saying an agency is an inferior being and a danger to all she surveys? Of course more qualified nurses are needed- it was ever thus and it's a bottomless pit. Enough will never be enough I'm sad to say.

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  • I am not normally an advocate for turning the clock back but generations of Nurses did their excellent training in the In House School of Nursing. We were proud that we trained at such a such hospital and wore our hospital badges with pride. There was never a staff shortage as student Nurses were the bulk of the workforce.

    However all degree entry has been a long fought battle which some political leaders wish to abolish. I feel that degree level entry is so important but there is no loyalty and feeling of belonging to a training hospital. A hybrid of university and hospital in house training could be the answer. I agree that having a second level qualified Nurse would solve some of staff shortages and restore pride in Nursing. The emphasis must be on qualified with recognised non degree training. This could be an entry portal for top up courses to degree level and level 1 registration for those not able to access, for various reasons, a degree course. I also agree more part time flexible courses would stop the loss of committed future Nurses.

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  • I trained in the old system and they should bring it back, although study time was limited (we did it mainly in our own time), we had exams to pass and if we failed we could not carry on. Although people think a degree looks better, on completion of training I applied to university and was told that my SRN qualification was equivalent to a degree and went onto a masters course. I recall writing a report when they brought in the new training which stated that the new system would result in a shortage of nurses and it has. Also how can parents do a 12 hour shift, I could not. The other day I was offered a job on agency £45 an hour, if the employed me on the NHS it would half that. Bring back the nurse bank.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Apr-2015 5:50 pm

    'I trained in the old system and they should bring it back, although study time was limited (we did it mainly in our own time), we had exams to pass and if we failed we could not carry on. Although people think a degree looks better, on completion of training I applied to university and was told that my SRN qualification was equivalent to a degree and went onto a masters course.'

    Good grief. I had to look twice as I thought it was one of my own comments when I read the above paragraph until I saw the date. I have taken a very similar training career path and we did what was known as a 2+1 course which prepared us for management and fast track to a sister's post on qualifying. our training was excellent and very comprehensive which has stood me in good stead throughout my career and complemented by the addition of a masters. It was good to know that the old SRN was equivalent to a degree and with the required number of CATs to access higher education. Had I been younger I would like to have gone on and completed a PhD. Interesting your predictions about the nursing shortage.

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