A report analysing the NHS workforce has highlighted how one London trust rejected between 40% and 60% of band 5 nurse applicants because they did not meet the organisation’s standards for numeracy, literacy or compassion.
The report, by the Health Foundation think-tank, said the situation at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust was an example of anxieties surrounding the variability of nurse education across the country.
“At some of our most recent assessment centres we have yielded a 75% pass rate, but it is still very variable both within the organisation and across London”
It noted there were questions about whether the oversight provided by the Nursing and Midwifery Council and local education and training boards (LETBs) – made up of representatives from local NHS providers – was sufficient to ensure consistent standards among graduates.
Those behind the report – called Fit for purpose? Workforce policy in the English NHS – said it was unclear whether the London trust’s situation was representative of what was happening at other organisations.
However, it called for “further thought” from nursing schools, the NMC and national workforce planning body Health Education England, which oversees LETBs, about “how best to assure themselves that nursing graduates are consistently meeting the high standards of care expected”.
Central and North West London’s executive director of nursing and quality Andy Mattin said the organisation’s pass rates were improving, but there was still more to be done to increase graduate skill levels.
Trust rejects nurses over numeracy and literacy skills
He said recent figures showed newly qualified applicants met the required standards in up to 75% of cases.
Mr Mattin noted higher numbers of rejected band 5 applicants in the past were usually down to problems with numeracy and literacy rather than standards for compassion, which are assessed at interview by using a “values based recruitment” approach.
He said: “Overall we have seen generalised improvement in [nurse] assessment centre performance for numeracy and literacy. At some of our most recent assessment centres we have yielded a 75% pass rate, but it is still very variable both within the organisation and across London.”
“We are especially seeing some very strong performance from postgraduate diploma students,” he added.
Mr Mattin said the variation in nurse pass rates seen between different provider organisations in London was being tackled in part by developing a standardised assessment tool as part of a programme called Capital Nurse, which is also looking to introduce guaranteed jobs for graduates in the city.
Recent interim evidence from an NMC-commissioned review of nurse pre-registration standards said they were too complex and result in perceived variation of knowledge and skills among registrants.
The NMC last week agreed to a £2m programme to revise pre-registration education standards for nurses that will take place in 2016-17.
Students are expected to begin the revamped university courses from September 2019.