The new midwifery degree apprenticeship is now ready for roll out across England, but questions have been raised about its chances of success.
The standard for the programme (see PDF attached below) has been approved by Skills for Health for delivery by the Institute for Apprenticeships.
“We are concerned that without specific funding and reform for healthcare apprenticeships, they will not fulfil their potential”
Planning has been led by experts in the “midwife trailblazer group” in partnership with Health Education England.
Employers and education providers can now start making arrangements to introduce the course.
Full-time apprentice midwives will typically spend four years in training with a minimum requirement of 20% off-the-job study.
The announcement comes after a parliamentary education committee found there were “too many obstacles” in the way of making nurse apprenticeships work.
It warned that take-up had been too slow with no more than 30 people starting training through the scheme last year – far short of the government’s ambition to 1,000 new nurse apprentices annually.
The MPs said lack of flexibility around funding for apprenticeships and requirements for students to have supernumerary status while in work were key barriers.
“This development is key to supporting widening access and new routes into the profession”
Sally Ashton May
Carmel Lloyd, head of education and learning at the Royal College of Midwives, welcomed the approval of midwifery apprenticeships but raised fears about their viability without changes to the system.
She said: “We are short of 3,500 midwives in the NHS in England, and the NHS has a target for apprenticeships which is not being met, so we are concerned that without specific funding and reform for healthcare apprenticeships, they will not fulfil their potential.”
Sally Ashton May, a member of the midwifery team at HEE, said: “This development is key to supporting widening access and new routes into the profession, providing an exciting new opportunity for individuals and for maternity services to grow their own midwifery workforce.”
She added that the “experience and leadership” of the joint chairs of the trailblazer group - Gloria Rowland, director of midwifery at Barts Health NHS Trust, and Helen Knower, midwifery director at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust – were “fundamental” to the getting to this point.
In a joint statement, Ms Rowland and Ms Knower said: “It has been hugely exciting leading and working with so many dedicated colleagues across health and education in England to develop a new midwifery apprenticeship pathway entrance into the midwifery profession.”