Healthcare assistants are to be offered a route into nursing through part-time degrees, under plans revealed by Health Education England.
The new £4.9bn education and training quango has announced a major investment in the training of NHS staff working in bands 1-4 of Agenda for Change. This will include re-opening career routes into nursing and medicine for staff through in-service training and part-time degrees, which could be up and running by September 2014.
HEE highlighted that bands 1-4 make up 40% of the NHS workforce and deliver around 60% of the patient contact, but receive only 5% of the education and training budget.
Nursing Times understands the move by HEE is a bid to reverse a trend that has seen such routes closed to support staff due to the requirement to study full-time.
Stephen Welfare, managing director of the East of England Local Education and Training Board and national lead for the new HEE strategy, said: “We need to find a way of increasing the numbers back again.”
He said support staff that progressed into a professional career tended to be local and more loyal to the trust they worked for and were less likely to drop-out of the training course, as well as already possessing a detailed knowledge of the NHS and providing patient care.
The strategy will also see the roll-out of national minimum training standards for all workers, not just healthcare assistants. The independent sector will also be included.
New clinical roles such as midwifery support workers, which have already been used in some parts of the country, will also be developed as part of national plans to develop the workforce. HEE will also push for a greater emphasis on continuing professional development within bands 1-4.
Mr Welfare added: “I don’t think it’s possible for us to talk about safe staffing levels if we don’t also have properly trained clinical support workers.”
He said significantly investing in bands 1-4 “would build trust and confidence in the group”, adding: “We need to make sure we invest more and that this group is given the priority that they deserve.”
Bands 1-4 include healthcare assistants, porters, domestic support workers and a range of non-clinical jobs such as finance assistants, receptionists and medical secretaries. Staff working in these bands earn between £14,294 and £22,016, based on pay rates effective from 1 April this year.