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Nurses need new skills for NHS of the future


New skills and qualifications will be required by nurses working in the health service of the future, according to the head of the new national training and education quango.

In his first interview since taking the role, Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, called for innovation in how nurses are trained to create a more flexible workforce and to improve the quality of care.

Professor Cumming stressed the importance of nurses having the right values to deliver compassionate care and he hinted at changes to the way students are selected for courses to ensure they reflect better values.

Health Education England will oversee a £5.5bn budget, alongside England’s 16 local education and training boards which will commission services locally.

Professor Cumming told Nursing Times: “We are going to need people who are trained in very different ways, people who will work in very different ways. We are still training many of our professional workforce to work in the health service of the past.

“We need to train people who are flexible and adaptable and make sure that education being commissioned is of the highest quality, value for money and reflects the people we want to produce at the end of it.”

He called for innovation in skills provision, expressing an interest in the joint nursing and pharmacy degrees available in the US.

Professor Cumming said the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry had “brought into sharp relief” the need to ensure prospective workers - including nurses - possessed the right values to work in the NHS.

Universities and training providers could, he suggested, improve their selection processes by better selecting people who had demonstrated the right values to join a caring profession.

“You will find some fantastic practice with regard to selection and you will find some places where more could be done,” he said of them.

He added: “HEE exists for one thing only and that is to make sure the highest possible quality of care is delivered to NHS and non-NHS patients.” This would also involve working with the existing workforce to improve quality, he said.

Professor Cumming, former chief executive of NHS West Midlands, said HEE would give greater freedom to LETBs and would not be a regulator breathing down their necks.

The sector would have a “distributed model of leadership”, he added.

“I think our style with LETBs is focusing on the ‘what’ and they will have the freedom on the ‘how’. They will agree their objectives with us, they will have their delegated resource to get on with it and then we will hold them to account.”

His comments come at a time some student nurses have complained of the difficulty of obtaining staff nurse jobs, while the government has had to fast-track training for health visitors after a dramatic slump in numbers.

Professor Cumming added: “There are some parts of the country and some trusts where I do not believe workforce planning has been taken as seriously as it should have been in terms of thinking about the consequences for themselves about the supply of the workforce in the future.”


Readers' comments (12)

  • Erm........just thinking about this, by values does he mean, undertaking a broader range of responsibilities for less pay, a poorer pension deal and no job security?
    On a serious note - it is good to be academically able to ensure workforce can understand, deliver quality, safe care and function in a fast paced highly technical environment BUT people still need the basics whether they are acutely unwell in secondary care or managing a long term condition in the community. They have messed about with nurse education for years and yet are still saying they haven't got it right.....shame :-(

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  • "Professor Cumming stressed the importance of nurses having the right values to deliver compassionate care and he hinted at changes to the way students are selected for courses to ensure they reflect better values."

    Which is a brilliant idea but when there are those of us who aren't entirely academically minded but are knowledgeable, caring and intelligent and yet are failed at the final hurdle, future candidates WON'T be picked for their caring natures, they will be picked for their brains so that they can pass the courses, regardless of whether they'd make good practical nurses or not.

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  • So nurses need to have different skills. I have nursed since 1977, I would love to gain more skills, but how do I afford them and as I work full time and as the main bread winner can't really afford to become a student again who do I get them.
    I have looked at several courses and they say must already be working in the area to up skill, but job ads say must have the skill. Sick of chicken and egg. I already have a degree, I already have a post grad cert. yet due to changes I more, or new skills. Don't neglect the nurses already there.

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  • a friend of mine with a life long career in nursing and now a sister was told she had to update her computer skills about nine months before her retirement age. as it was not practical for her to do so and they would not keep her on without doing the course she was forced into early retirement.

    from my own experience I think that since nursing has gone over to the very inappropriate general management model of determining how we work we are forced to accept it and it seems to be the savvy thing to do to identify gaps in the labour market (to put it in management speak) and acquire the appropriate training and skills and try to fill the gaps. as above this is rather a chicken and egg gamble and is probably a better strategy for the newly qualified or those earlier on in their careers rather than those in the middle to end of their careers which leaves them rather stuck.

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  • 'He called for innovation in skills provision, expressing an interest in the joint nursing and pharmacy degrees available in the US.'

    Nurses need to understand enough about drugs, and so do doctors, but pharmacists are pharmacists; I'm not entirely sure what a joint nurse/pharmacist would be ?

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  • I have worked with nurses from other countries who are trained like junior doctors. When put on a ward that has next to no help to do basic care for their patients they found the going tough.
    I did the old style training, so when I have to wash or toilet a patient I do it as part of my job, however the nurses with their degrees from abroad is finding it difficult. I welcome futher training but we must have cover enough to do the basic important jobs.

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  • Heather Henry

    Oh Professor Cumming! I feel you are a new broom trying to sweep clean, but you haven't checked the broom cupboard to see the quality of the current stock.
    And as for the point about people not taking workforce planning seriously, how right he is! Lets take the DH for example: For years, I saw HV team managers arguing with commissioners about the need to recruit more staff. But because commissioners didnt really understand what HVs did, they refused. Then the DH came along and said 'thou shalt have more HVs', but didnt really talk to commissioners about that. So the commissioners are then forced to pay for HVs that they didnt commission and I bet they will cut another service to pay for it.

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  • Nurses today need to be taught the real value and skills nurses are supposed to possess. The complaints you read every day in the national press expose nurses are failing to nurse. Please value nurses who perform the basics well and with care and compassion and please stop placing value and emphasis on additional skills. If we do this patients will at last feel cared for and thrive.

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  • I am thinking of going into nursing as I have over 18 years care experience, 8 in a hospital setting, from what I see going on in nursing today, the goverment seem more interested in the academic side of nursing. What happened to basic nursing skills, nurses are overwhelmed with paperwork and pressurised immensly from all quarters. Leave them alone to get on with what they trained for. I dont know at the moment if I would like to pursue a career in nursing not because I would not be able to deal with the pressures of this profession but because it appears to me that BRAINS seem more important than practical skills, and I for one would prefer the old fashioned basic patient care returned.

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  • I did my training back in the sixties and I was proud to be a caring practical trained nurse.(I still am incidently) Today there is too much emphasis placed on the need for higher degrees and academic qualifications and this is attracting the person without the same reasons for becoming a nurse that I had back in 1960.The good old caring practical nurse training should be reintroduced to actually provide the care for our patients The higher level degree trained nurse can then become the managers and hopefully work in conjunction with the practical nurse. This would benefit the patients ultimately but also provide a good basic team, essential to the present NHS.

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