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Exclusive: Two-year nurse apprenticeship programme launched in Essex

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Four health service trusts in Essex have joined forces with a local university to launch one of the UK’s first two-year registered nurse apprenticeship programmes.

A total of 27 apprentice nurses have just begun the course, which is being run by the University of Essex in partnership with Mid-Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Basildon and Thurrock Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

“We are investing in them with the view that they are likely to stay with us once registered”

Jayne Toplis

The training, which began yesterday, will see participants qualify as registered nurses in half the time normally expected, which is typically four years for new nurse apprenticeships.

The programme has been shortened because the apprentices are required to have previously completed a 20-month foundation degree in health science before they start the new course.

The apprentices, who are already healthcare assistants at the trusts, will be paid the same wage they are on as an HCA and their training will be funded through the government’s new apprenticeship levy, which is applied to employers.

Jayne Toplis, group associate director of people and organisational development for the four NHS trusts, said the apprenticeship had been set up to support staff who were likely to stay at the organisation, in order to help fill nurse vacancies and hold onto staff.

She said: “One of the reasons for bringing in the apprenticeship is the fact many students that are undertaking the programme live locally so if we can support them to develop, we are more likely to retain them – rather than them having to leave employment to undertake a nursing course, where they can complete their course and may not come back to the organisation.”

 “We are investing in them with the view that they are likely to stay with us once registered,” she said.

“The group of staff hoping to complete the apprenticeship are passionate about the nursing profession”

Julie Coleman

Ms Toplis said the four trusts were looking at the possibility of a further cohort of apprentices starting the two-year programme from this autumn.

Julie Coleman, lead nurse practice development/education liaison manager at Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said there had been a “huge amount” of interest in the apprenticeship training from its staff.

“From the interviews, it was clear that the group of staff hoping to complete the apprenticeship are passionate about the nursing profession. Despite the NHS being under considerable pressure they were highly motivated and enthusiastic about the prospect of becoming registered nurses,” she said.

Sarah Lee, head of nursing at Essex University, said: “The University of Essex has a long tradition of being able to respond quickly to changes in healthcare and has always supported a variety of routes into nursing beyond traditional full-time programmes.

“This approach has meant we can respond quickly in adapting our existing BSc nursing curriculum for the apprenticeship delivery model,” she added.

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