UNISON will fight to protect nurse training following a motion carried unanimously at its health conference in Harrogate.
The composite motion, proposed by the National Nursing Sector and Sussex Community and Mental Health Branch, warned that the planned abolition of the nursing diploma could create an elitist profession.
It also warns that the move towards a degree-only profession could reduce the number of nursing in training, which could reduce the numbers of nurses in the workforce in the long term.
The motion also raises concerns that nurses will eventually have a supervisory role where they will merely oversee the work of unregistered colleagues.
Dwindling student numbers could lead to redundancies among nurse trainers and the closure of courses, the motion argues.
Christine Sullivan, of the Liverpool branch, said: ‘We can’t afford to let our profession slip away. We need investment in our education.
‘Just because you don’t have a degree doesn’t make you less of a nurse. We have to make sure that nursing not is turned into the preserve of academics.’
Peter Atkinson, Sussex Community and Mental Health Branch, said: ‘We need to protect the interests of our student nurses. Our nursing workforce must reflect the society it cares for. We must resist attempts to dilute the skill mix of staff.’
UNISON will now seek an agreed exit point for nurses who do not obtain degrees and alert the government to its concerns about the consequences of an all-graduate profession.
It will also resist attempts to dilute nursing skill mix away from safe levels of registered nurses, defend the jobs of nurses and nurse educators working in higher education and raise its concerns with the Council of Deans of Health.
Should the nursing diploma be abolished?