Degree-level nurse apprenticeships being developed under government plans must meet the pre-registration requirements already set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council for nurse education, the professional regulator underlined at its council meeting this week.
Plans to introduce apprenticeships as a new route to becoming a nurse were first announced by the government in 2014. Earlier this year, the Department of Health unveiled a target of 100,000 new apprenticeships in the NHS in England by 2020.
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During the NMC’s latest council session on Wednesday, the regulator’s chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith highlighted the body’s ongoing discussion with a “trailblazer group” of employers and representatives from the healthcare sector, which is tasked with developing the degree-level nurse apprenticeship.
She said the NMC had been “very clear” that the apprenticeship standard must meet the regulator’s existing standards for pre-registration nurse education.
Ms Smith also noted that apprenticeships would only be able to be offered at education providers approved by the NMC.
“We won’t compromise our standards”
She later reiterated to Nursing Times that the NMC supported the introduction of nurse apprenticeships, but it would “not compromise” on the standards it set for educating the profession.
“We’ve said, if you want to develop an apprenticeship standard, that standard ultimately must meet the NMC standards, and whatever programmes get approved need to be via our own approved education institutions,” she said.
“We’re supporting this because we fundamentally believe in widening participation and accrediting prior learning, but we won’t compromise our standards,” she added.
A government consultation on a draft version of the standard for degree-level nurse apprenticeships closed earlier this month.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said the standard was in the process of being approved and that employers would then help to draft the assessment plan for the standard before further consultation.