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Ministers set target to increase NHS apprenticeships

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The NHS is expected to create around 100,000 new apprenticeships by 2020, the government has announced as it launches a consultation on targets for public sector organisations on the number of apprentices they employ.

As part of the government’s drive to increase apprenticeships more widely, it wants to set a minimum annual target of 2.3% of workers to be new apprentices in each public sector organisation in England.

The roles covered by the policy would include nursing and healthcare assistant jobs as well as IT, housekeeping and administration, said the Department of Health.

“We will work with trusts across the country to improve access to a career in the healthcare system”

Ben Gummer

The announcement this week comes shortly after ministers confirmed the introduction of a new nursing associate role for senior healthcare assistants, who will be trained via an apprenticeship.

Under the plans, the DH said it would also look at whether this could provide a new route to become a registered nurse by those in the role being able to either complete a shortened degree or a degree-level apprenticeship.

The DH confirmed to Nursing Times that the new role, announced in December, and degree-level nursing apprenticeships, currently being trialled by a group of trusts, would count towards the apprenticeship target.

Full details of the nursing associate role – designed to bridge the gap between healthcare assistants and registered nurses and provide a new route into nursing – will be set out in a consultation due to be published imminently by Health Education England.

The government expects up to 1,000 people to start training as nursing associates from this year.

“Developing apprenticeship standards in nursing and nursing associate is just the start”

Department of Health

The DH also said it wanted to build on existing work to develop apprenticeship schemes following the creation of national standards for healthcare assistants and healthcare support workers.

These include a scheme at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. which has linked up with local colleges to encourage students to take up healthcare assistant roles. Of 24 initial trainees more than half have stayed working at trust and only three have left to pursue a career outside healthcare.

The DH said it expected trusts to employ a “range of apprentices”. “The roles they employ apprentices in will depend on their local workforce need and we do not know what the split will be between, for example, nursing roles and other NHS roles such as estates or administration,” said a spokeswoman.

She said Health Education England’s Talent for Care programme to develop apprenticeships in the NHS had shown there was a need for a broader range of apprenticeships.

“Developing apprenticeship standards in nursing and nursing associate is just the start and we want to work with employers to develop a menu of apprenticeships which people can undertake in the NHS,” said the DH spokeswoman.

Launched jointly by the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the consultation proposes the apprenticeship target be applied only to public sector organisations with more than 250 employees.

It means GPs would not be subject to the rules as currently proposed. Meanwhile, only a small number of clinical commissioning groups – such as NHS Dorset CCG – would be covered by the duty as few employ 250 or more staff.

The consultation looks at whether any organisations should be exempt, and if the target should be based on headcount of existing staff – as is planned – or full-time equivalent figures.

It also looks at whether some bodies, such as NHS trusts should be grouped together, which would mean that those with fewer than 250 employees end up being subject to the target.

The government said the target would not come into effect until after 2016.

Based on current headcount figures, the consultation document shows an annual 28,000 new apprenticeships would be created in the NHS under the target.

In recent years, NHS apprenticeship numbers have risen steadily from 9,600 in 2012-13 to 11,000 in 2013-14 and 14,600 in 2014-15.

A statement released by NHS England said minsters wanted to “kick start the NHS apprenticeships programme with an estimated 17,000 new roles in 2015-16”.

Department of Health

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Ben Gummer 

Health minister Ben Gummer said: “As one of the largest employers in the world, I am immensely proud that the NHS is leading the way in offering thousands of aspiring, young people the opportunity to become an apprentice.

“We will work with trusts across the country to improve access to a career in the healthcare system for anyone who has the drive and values to pursue it,” he said.

He added: “This apprenticeship plan, along with the £10bn we have invested to back the NHS’ own plans for the future, will ensure staff have the opportunity to develop their careers in both existing and also new and exciting roles such as nursing associates.”


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