The Conservatives have suggested that every newly qualified nurse could be guaranteed a year’s employment if their party is elected this week.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley told the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress last week it was “outrageous” that some student nurses were unable to find work after qualifying.
He said it was “a waste of great talent and a waste of public resources” and that was why he wanted “every nurse entering the profession coming out of nursing education to have a one year preceptorship in order to establish themselves in the profession”.
His remarks led to speculation over whether he was saying the NHS should employ every newly qualified nurse or merely supporting existing plans for universal preceptorships.
When Nursing Times asked the Conservatives if Mr Lansley wanted nurses’ first year of employment to be guaranteed, a spokesman responded: “Yes, we want to look into how we can make sure nurses are guaranteed a year of work after they qualify.”
The spokesman said the idea was “floated” in the party’s nursing consultation. However, that document refers only to preceptorships.
Mr Lansley’s comments have sparked concern that trusts could be forced to employ nurses signed off as competent by another organisation, whether they agree with that assessment or not.
King’s College London national nursing research unit director Peter Griffiths said it would be “very challenging” to force trusts to employ newly qualified nurses who may have been signed off by other organisations.
Last week Nursing Times revealed huge problems with student assessment, with more than a third of nurse mentors admitting they had passed students despite having concern about their abilities.
A Council of Deans of Health spokeswoman said the Conservatives’ nursing consultation had revealed “confusion” about preceptorships. She added that specifying a particular length of time for such schemes was “unhelpful”, as people’s rates of learning are different.
“It is important to ensure that preceptorship is not locked in to any regulation or revalidation requirements,” she said.
“If preceptorship is to be made mandatory, this should not be in response to the incorrect assumption that new registrants are not competent and should not be in any way tied in to the move to all-graduate nursing, implying graduates are not fit for purpose.”