Aptitude testing and controversial plans for potential student nurses to work as healthcare assistants all feature in the list of objectives handed to England’s new health education and training body.
Health Education England is the new arms-length body set up by government to oversee the education and training of health professionals. Ministers last week issued it with a “mandate”, setting out a broad range of tasks and targets it wants to see the body implement.
One of its main objectives is to draw up a new five-year plan to ensure the right levels of staffing and training across the health service workforce will be in place by autumn 2013.
The mandate also confirms that every potential student nurse will by March 2015 be tested to make sure they have the right values and skills to provide good quality care, as exclusive revealed by Nursing Times in February.
In addition, it requires HEE to pilot the government’s plan for students to serve up to a year as a healthcare assistant before starting a degree course, to “prompt frontline caring experience and values, as well as academic strength”.
The idea formed a key plank of the government’s response to the Francis report in April but was heavily criticised at the time by nursing organisations and the Council of Deans of Health.
In addition, it calls on HEE to ensure at least 50% of student nurses undertake community placements by March 2015 and that 100,000 NHS staff have foundation level dementia training by March 2014.
It should work with higher education institutions to review the content of pre-registration nurse education to ensure “all new nurses have the skills to work with the large numbers of older people being treated in the healthcare system”, it added.
To achieve this, the mandate requires HEE to develop specific post-graduate training for nurses caring for older people with complex needs, set for introduction in September 2014.
The mandate also sets out a need to support the progression of healthcare assistants into nursing as well as establishing the current “baseline of HCA training standards”, to be followed by the establishing minimum training standards for all HCAs in spring 2014.
It also requires HEE to ensure a well- educated school nurse workforce, and that the NHS must have enough midwives and maternity staff for all expectant mothers to receive personalised one-to-one care “throughout pregnancy, childbirth and during the post-natal period”.
In a joint foreword to the document, health minister Dr Dan Poulter and health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The terrible events at Mid Staffordshire and the Francis Report reinforces the need to recruit NHS and public health staff with the right values and the need to put the delivery of high quality compassionate care at the heart of our NHS.”
HEE’s chief executive Professor Ian Cumming said: “Our mandate from the government sets out clearly the plans for education and training that will be the cornerstone for the delivery of high quality, effective, compassionate care, by recruiting for values and training for skills. Our £5bn budget will allow us to recruit, train and develop a workforce that will deliver improved care to patients.”
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “These commitments are very welcome. On paper this looks good but it has got to be put into action and the government have to ensure this happens.
“I want to look back at the end of the timescales the government have laid out and see that all of this actually happened, and I look forward to working with them and HEE to make it a reality.”
Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “This mandate isn’t just about having the right numbers of staff. In the aftermath of the Mid Staffordshire Inquiry, the NHS Employers organisation will work with HEE to ensure a strong emphasis on recruiting for positive values.
“We look forward to working with HEE on implementing this mandate and ensuring it delivers for patients.”
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