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Nursing students in Cornwall to be paid while they train

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Nursing students in Cornwall will be paid during their training in exchange for their commitment to work in the county, as part of a “unique” initiative to tackle workforce shortages and retain staff in the area.

As of autumn this year, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT), Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT), Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group and Cornwall Council plan to introduce a scheme to incentivise students to join a new “virtual” academy while they train to become nurses.

“Cornwall has started to embark on the process of ’growing our own’ staff to meet these gaps”

Phil Confue

The students, who are believed to mostly be existing employees of the trusts who were previously in healthcare support roles, will have their pay and course fees met while they train.

A spokeswoman for the organisations involved told Nursing Times that the training fees would be met through the government’s apprenticeship levy and the pay would be met by the trusts themselves.

Earlier reports had suggested the levy would be used to cover student pay. But, according to a statement from Skills for Health, the apprenticeship levy cannot be used to pay salaries “under any circumstances”.

The deal, named the “virtual health and social care academy”, means that once qualified, graduates must commit to remain working in the county for a least two years or pay the money back.

The hope is that it will help tackle workforce shortages and improve social mobility of people within the area.

Those behind the scheme have said it marks the start of Cornwall “growing [its] own” staff to help meet gaps in the profession.

Chief executive at CFT, Phil Confue, said: “If we didn’t come up with a different approach to recruitment and training, there would be an additional 114 vacancies in the mental health workforce alone than in 2016. This would be repeated across the different care groups.

“While a strategy of attracting more people to move to Cornwall to work in health and social care is one approach, this would be being tried by every area in England; rather Cornwall has started to embark on the process of “growing our own” staff to meet these gaps,” he said.

Academic partners supporting the scheme include the University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, University College St Mark and St John, Callywith College and Truro and Penwith College.

The first intake of students for the new academy will be in the autumn and will include both adult and mental health nurses, and clinical associate psychologists.

Director of nursing at RCHT, Kim O’Keefe, described the scheme as a “custom-made solution for Cornwall”. “In creating the academy, we hope Cornwall will also remain at the cutting edge in developing new roles and apprenticeships for health and social care,” she said.

Following the launch of the academy, Ms O’Keefe highlighted that the trust is currently looking at how a nursing associate role can be funded and delivered in the county with Plymouth University.

Also speaking about the initiative, Armand Toms, chair of the council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee, noted that for those that have aspirations to work in health and social care, the academy will give them the opportunity to do so without the “financial barriers currently in place”.

The initiative was first unveiled in February at the Cornwall Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre, when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by members behind the scheme.

The apprenticeship levy is a government-managed cash pot that all employers with a pay bill of more than £3m have to contribute to and can then draw money from to fund apprenticeships and training.

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