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Nursing apprenticeships ‘will not solve workforce crisis’

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Healthcare academics have responded with caution to the government’s announcement of plans to introduce the first degree-level nurse apprenticeships from next September.

Up to 1,000 apprentice nurses could join the NHS each year once the new route into the profession is fully up and running, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said this morning during a speech.

“The quickest way to boost the supply of nurses is to recruit more people”

Jessica Corner

As previously reported by Nursing Times, at least four universities are expected to begin nurse apprenticeships in partnership with employers in 2017.

But Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Chair of the Council of Deans of Health, representing UK university faculties engaged in nursing and midwifery education and research, questioned the move.

She noted that opportunities to combine work with study to qualify as a registered nurse had “been around for many years”.

“More opportunities to do this are welcome, providing they are properly resourced and education standards are consistent, whatever route students come through,” she said.

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Jessica Corner

But Professor Corner stated that “we should be clear” that moves to provide more apprenticeships “will not solve the nursing workforce shortage”.

“With 20,000 student nursing places in England each year, 1,000 apprentices who may take five years to join the workforce are a drop in the ocean,” she warned.

“The quickest way to boost the supply of nurses is to recruit more people through conventional programmes and retain them in the workforce over the long-term,” she said.

She added that, given the current pressures on the NHS, there was a “strong case” for a national campaign to promote nursing as a career alongside measures to support nurses in the workplace.

Mr Hunt made the announcement this morning as part of a keynote speech, where he also confirmed that the new nursing associate role would be subject to regulation by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

In addition, he unveiled moves to encourage more NHS senior managers from clinical backgrounds, an easier route into advanced nurse practitioner roles and wider adoption of e-rostering technology.

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