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Half of student nurses to do community placement within two years


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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Readers' comments (13)

  • What is Jeremy Hunt warbling about? the need to recruit staff with the "right values" with "compassion?" I don't think that obnoxious career politician knows the meaning of the word. Perhaps he should ask his lap dog Cummings to explain.

    Where are all these extra dementia trained nurses coming from?

    And will they last with this government wielding the axe over increasing numbers of nurses?

    As far as I am aware, in my area all nursing students have to do community placements. But as community nurses now are rarer than poo from a rocking horse many students have to settle for outpatients, etc.

    And aren't most placements for nursing students dealing with elderly care in whatever ward they are in anyway??

    Stop spouting drivel Hunt. And stop blaming nurses so that you can continue with your master's plan to dismantle the NHS.

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  • 'community placement ' - like I did back in the 80's, I thought nursing students already did this and have been doing so for years.

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  • Students do do community placements - in our area as many as four placements can be with the District Nursing team. They follow us round, can't go out alone until the last placement, are not allowed to undertake many of the skills we use and miss out on valuable time with patients as a result. On a ward you can do many things as a student without someone close by your side - not so in community where students become so Dependent they almost go to the toilet with you. As far as I can tell students are farmed out anywhere they can stuffed regardless of how useful it will be. I am sure the patient contact experience issue could be solved by removing supernumary status. This would increase the workforce, provide good experience and free up nursing time on the wards for teaching. Students have always been a great resource. Its not like junior doctors spend three years with supernumary status is it?

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  • tinkerbell

    a fine example of a politician spouting their own ignorance of what actually happens already with nursing placements.

    Heaven help us all.

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  • michael stone

    Sorry that this is off-topic, but I've just signed up to a 38 degrees campaign - i don't like this one, at all !

    They sent:


    Dear friends,

    Have a look at this:

    The Conservative party is looking into limiting the number of times we are allowed to visit our GPs.

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  • tinkerbell

    DH Agent - as if ! | 29-May-2013 9:55 am

    It's called the 'AHA' experience. I have always hoped i was wrong and we weren't going down this route, but we are going down it at such a fast, unrelenting pace it's scary.

    Hope you have some private healthcare insurance in place.

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  • what will the other half be doing?

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  • Tiger Girl

    tinkerbell | 29-May-2013 10:38 am

    'Hope you have some private healthcare insurance in place.'

    And the people who cannot afford private care? Oh silly me - forgot the principles this mob work to, for a minute there!

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  • What?! Do you mean nursing students are going to to placements with real patients? But I, I, I, I, I thought, well, the Daily Mail said they don't do that anymore because they moved their training into universities with all that fancy book learning stuff. (end sarcasm).

    I thought one of the learning outcomes already required of student nurses was to complete a module on primary care and spend a placement out in the community in some manner? I know it was when I trained. More hot air from ill informed politicians, this time dressed up as face because it's a doctor turned Tory minister.

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  • bill whitehead

    Those respondents who are showing surprise above are clearly right to be confused by this. The relevant sections from the NMC's 2010 Standards for Pre-Registration Education are as follows:
    R6.5.2 Programme providers must ensure that practice learning opportunities take place across a range of community, hospital and other settings.
    R8.1.5 Programme providers must ensure that there are periods of practice throughout the programme in which students are assessed in both hospital and community settings.
    There are numerous other references to ensuring students have placements in community settings within the NMC’s standards and enshrined in long standing EU directives for minimum standards. Therefore, this should be an easy policy to implement as it is already an NMC requirement of programmes.

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