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‘Unique’ fast-track nursing degree course for HCAs in Northumbria


A “unique partnership” between a university and a foundation trust has led to the development of an innovative degree course for students with prior healthcare experience to become nurses.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumbria University are working together to deliver a new work-based programme leading to an honours degree in nursing for those who already have “substantial experience” in the nursing and healthcare sector, and also of previous academic study.

“We continue to face real recruitment pressures and must continually look at innovative ways to secure our future nursing workforce”

Debbie Reape

The two organisations have said they believe it to be the first education programme of its kind in the country.

The initiative also comes on the heels of government plans to create a new nursing associate role to create a bridge between healthcare assistants and registered nurse training. It forms part of efforts to find a solution to the national staff shortage, as previously revealed by Nursing Times.

Northumbria Healthcare has invested £1m to put together the bespoke undergraduate nursing programme lasting 18 months, which meets the requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Around 20 students will start the course this year. The first 10 recruits – made up of existing trust staff – have already started the programme. The trust hopes to enrol a second cohort of 10 onto the programme in September.

With a mix of classroom-based teaching and hands-on practical experience, the recruits will have guaranteed employment at Northumbria Healthcare on completion of the course.

The university said shortlisted applicants were put through a “rigorous” application and assessment process with “strict” criteria to determine their previous experience and suitability.

“We hope that this will be the first of many such arrangements with other trusts across the country”

Pam Dawson

The process included assessments by both the trust and the university, and a full-day workshop in which their actions and reactions were monitored when faced with different scenarios.

Professor Pam Dawson, associate dean for strategic workforce planning and development in the university’s health faculty, said: “This is a new way of educating and training future nurses using a workplace-based coaching model to support their teaching and learning, keeping quality of patient care at the forefront.

“It will enable motivated people with healthcare experience already working within the sector to step up and become fully qualified nurses and we hope that this will be the first of many such arrangements with other trusts across the country,” she added.

The training will cover hospital and community nursing, meaning the recruits should be able to work in both settings.

It also fits with Northumbria Healthcare’s plans to develop new models of integrated and community-based care as one of NHS England’s national “vanguard” sites.

Debbie Reape, interim executive director of nursing at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “It is vitally important that our nurses are able to work in both areas in order to ensure patients have a seamless transition from hospital to community care.

University of Northumbria

Fast-track nurse degree course for Northumbria HCAs

Jenni Thompson and Ogechi Okore

“This programme is a big part of our work towards our vision of having one single workforce to cater for patients’ needs, regardless of whether they’re receiving their care,” she said.

She added: “Like every NHS organisation in the country, we continue to face real recruitment pressures and must continually look at innovative ways to secure our future nursing workforce.”

Two of those already on the course include Jenni Thompson, a breastfeeding support worker at Hexham General Hospital, and Ogechi Okore, a nursing assistant at North Tyneside General Hospital.

Ms Thompson, 33, said: “I planned to do a nursing degree in around five years, but this opportunity came up and it was too good to miss. I love it so far.”

Ms Okore, 32, added: “I already have experience of a lot of the practical elements but didn’t know the theory behind it, so doing the research and reading the journals has been so empowering. When it finishes I’d particularly like to specialise in alcohol nursing.”


Readers' comments (3)

  • This is inspiring for the hca and they deserve the opportunity to graduate. Why shouldn't we develop more of these schemes

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  • Exactly!!! I am a Band 3 who is about to qualify as a Band 4 after 7 years in the NHS and 2 years at uni. This would be excellent......but I'm in Manchester. Where's our opportunity???

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  • a lot of barriers prevent care workers from becoming nurses such as home life commitments,children,spouse illness ect why not tap into resources and give people something to look forward to. we need to move way from old fashioned ways of training

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