There will be a 10% increase in the number of nurse training places available in Wales next year and also a pilot scheme for a Dutch-style community nursing service, ministers have announced today.
The number of commissioned nurse training places available will increase by 10% in 2018 as part of a £107m package to support education and training programmes for healthcare professionals.
Nurse training places will rise by 161 to 1,911, with increases in all four nursing fields, and “building on” increases delivered in the past three years, said health secretary for Wales Vaughan Gething.
The 10% increase in this year’s training budget for nurse training places follows a 13% increase in 2017-18, a 10% increase in 2016-17 and the 22% increase in 2015-16.
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Overall, the latest funding, which represents an increase of £12m over last year’s package, is intended to allow over 3,500 new students to join healthcare education programmes across Wales.
As well as student nurses, the funding covers “additional” health visitor training places and the “maintenance” in 2018-19 of last year’s 40% rise in midwifery training places.
No details on health visiting were initially provided, but a government spokesman told Nursing Times that there had been a 12% increase in training places. “There are now 92 training places available in 2018-19, compared to 82 in the previous year,” he said.
“I am very proud we are once again increasing training places for nurses, midwives and health visitors”
The investment package also includes a 10% increase in physiotherapy and occupational therapy training places and a further cohort of physician associate places available from September 2018.
Meanwhile, £2m has been set aside for 2018-19 and 2019-20 to fund a Welsh Buurtzorg pilot – as part of a two-year budget deal with Plaid Cymru – said the government.
It said £1.4m of this money each year would support the education and training programmes required to “underpin” the pilots, including allowing the release of nurses to train as district nurses.
The Buurtzorg model, developed in The Netherlands, is based on small self-determining teams of district nurses who cover a neighbourhood of no more than 5,000 people.
The district nurses are empowered to maximise the use of local community assets in the on-going support of individuals.
The model is already being trialed, or planned to be, in Scotland, Northern Ireland and locally in parts of England, as previously reported by Nursing Times.
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The new funding package for nurse education and training was announced today in a written statement published by the Welsh government.
Mr Gething, said: “The austerity policy pursued by the UK government has significantly impacted our budget and in those circumstances training is often one of the first casualties.
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“But this is a short-sighted approach. Instead we are actually increasing investment in training, despite the budget cuts, in order to secure the long-term future of the health service,” he said.
“I am very proud we are once again increasing training places for nurses, midwives, physiotherapist, occupational health works and health visitors,” he added.
Mr Gething claimed the funding demonstrated his government’s “commitment to ensuring the NHS has the workforce it needs to deliver high quality care now and in the future” in Wales.
Unlike England, Wales continues to centrally commission nurse education places by funding bursaries and tuition fees.
The Royal College of Nursing in Wales said it welcomed today’s announcement of an additional £12m of government money to fund a 10% rise in the number of nurse training places nationally.
“It is particularly good news to see that the money includes £2m to support a pilot of the Buurtzorg project for neighbourhood nursing care”
RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly said: “The package of funding will see an extra 161 nurse training places and significant support for level four training for healthcare support workers.
“And in all, investment in training places for physiotherapy, occupational health, health visiting, midwifery, healthcare scientists, paramedics, dental hygienists and radiographers is also being maintained or increased,” she said.
She noted that the RCN in Wales had previously identified that a lack of new nurse training places to “balance out” the numbers leaving for reasons, including dissatisfaction with pay and working conditions, retirement and Brexit, had “reached crisis point”.
“This will help to address that shortfall and support those nurses who remain in the profession,” said Ms Donnelly.
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She added that it was “particularly good news” to see that the inclusion of £2m to support a pilot of the Buurtzorg project for neighbourhood nursing care.
“The RCN has long supported this model, which was founded in the Netherlands and has garnered international acclaim for its nurse-led, cost-effective principles, which rely upon nurse-innovation leading the way for care of patients in their own communities,” she said.
“A total of £1.4m of this Welsh Government money will allow the release of nurses to train as district nurses to help deliver the pilot programme, which, we hope will eventually be rolled out nationwide,” she said. “The RCN in Wales is already championing the principle of bringing more care into the community and allowing the population to take on more responsibility for its own health – which, in turn, will have a positive impact on acute services.”