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College chief criticises training variation

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RCN general secretary Peter Carter has criticised academic institutions for the inconsistent levels of training being given to nursing students.

Speaking at a conference in London last week, Mr Carter said that during visits to hospitals across the UK, he had heard that standards of care provided by newly qualified nurses varied.

Some institutions were supplying trusts with newly qualified nurses with high standards but training standards were lacking at others.

‘While I believe that the critical mass of our profession provides good care, there is no doubt that there are some issues,’ he told delegates.

‘We have got examples of our members talking to us, telling us of a lack of confidence, lack of experience and not feeling that they have the skills to do the job,’ he said.

‘You will find that one university seems to be able to turn out people who can do the work, who do feel confident. But there are other people who say that there is a major problem – whole trusts saying that they have to provide a disproportionate level of support in the first year,’ Mr Carter added.

He said that the same was true of some HCAs. These instances were undermining the public’s perception of nurses, he warned. ‘We are concerned that this has caused some
of the publicity which has shaken the public’s confidence in nurses.’

But Paul Turner, executive officer of the Council of Deans of Health, said there was no evidence to support Mr Carter’s assertions.

‘Major reviews were undertaken by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education of all NHS-funded provision in England between 2003 and 2006,’ he said.

‘It reported that major review teams had confidence in the academic and practitioner standards achieved across all 90 reviews.

‘Only one programme received a judgment of “no confidence” and one programme received a judgment of “limited confidence” – neither of those were in nursing,’ he added.

Also addressing the conference, Beattie Dray, head of recruitment for nursing at Kingston University, voiced concern about the level of numeracy skills among nursing students. She said newly qualified nurses lacked the skills because of the low standards set by the ‘C’ grade for GCSE maths.

Rowena Smith, chairperson of the Community and District Nursing Association, has said future student placements will have to be more ‘imaginative and innovative’
to take into account the transfer of care from acute to community settings.

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