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Weekly news summary: 10 December 2016

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The head of the Nursing and Midwifery Council has stressed that degree-level apprentice nurses should be considered as supernumerary during their training, as with student nurses.

Following an announcement by the health secretary last week that hundreds every would be trained via this new route in England every year, Jackie Smith said there would be “challenges” to introducing apprentices, including ensuring that employers did not count them as part of staffing numbers.

Meanwhile, the number of applications the NMC has received from universities to set up pre-registration nursing and midwifery courses has increased due to the forthcoming removal of bursaries and switch to loans in England from September 2017. However, this influx in university interest is saddled with ongoing problems with student placement capacity, which could worsen with additional courses, the NMC warned.

The NMC chief executive also this week commented on the government’s request for the body to regulate the nursing associate role in England, stating that a “full and thorough” debate will be required. She said the body would need to consider how much it would cost the NMC to regulate associates, underling that if it went ahead nurses would not see their annual fee increase as a result. The NMC council will decide on 25 January.

Similarly, NHS Improvement’s senior staff have revealed they are drawing up safety measures to ensure the introduction of nursing associates will not result in a diluted nurse workforce. A “safeguard” mechanism is being devised according to the body’s chief executive, so that the new role does not result in “a cheaper, less skilled workforce”. NHSI’s chief nurse also said nursing associates will be counted separately from nurses and healthcare assistant under a new metric – the care hour per patient day measure – being used to calculate staffing levels across in hospitals.

Ministers have announced a commitment to continue giving student nurses and midwives in Wales a bursary in 2017-18, but with the condition that they work for at least two years in the county after qualifying. The Welsh government noted however that long term arrangements for student nurses in Wales were still to be confirmed.

In other news, the authors of a US study recently published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing contend that nursing students should be taught that using instinct can help them make good, clinical decisions. Although this technique is usually frowned upon by nursing teacher and managers, many nurses are relying on instinct alongside analytical thinking, according to this study’s findings, which can lead to more accurate decisions.

Nurses have been named as the most trusted profession, according to a UK poll that ranked the profession higher than other public sector workers including doctors, teachers, and police officers. A total of 93% of participants stated they would “generally trust” a nurse compared to 91% for doctors and 88% for teachers. Ben Page, chief executive of the Ipsos Mori, which carried out the poll, described the results as “good news for nurses everywhere”.

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