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Your weekly news summary: 3 December 2016

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Health secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed hundreds of people will be able to train each year under plans to introduce the first degree-level nurse apprenticeships in England from next September.

The Department of Health said it expected up to 1,000 apprentice nurses could join the NHS in England on an annual basis once the new route into training was fully established. Mr Hunt unveiled the policy along with a number of others affecting nursing in a speech to NHS provider organisations at an event on Wednesday.

Mr Hunt also brought an end to months of speculation by announcing at the conference in Birmingham that he had asked the Nursing and Midwifery Council to regulate the forthcoming nursing associate role. He said that because those in the new post would be administering medicines, a “stronger regime of assurance” was necessary to ensure patient safety and sound practice. The NMC will decide whether to agree to the request at the end of January.

On the same day, Health Education England unveiled a second group of employers and universities that will help test the new nursing associate role. During 2017, a second wave of 1,000 trainee nursing associates will begin programmes at 24 pilot sites across the country. They bring together a wide range of organisations, including care home, acute, community, and mental health trusts and hospices.

In addition, the health secretary has said he would be “surprised” if local NHS proposals to redesign services – known as sustainably and transformation plans (STPs) – resulted in fewer nurses. In recent weeks, two STPs have been published that refer to skill mix changes to save millions of pounds, including reducing registered nursing posts. But Mr Hunt said that after learning from the scandal at Mid Staffordshire, it was clear hospitals need safely staffed wards.

Meanwhile, a senior nurse at Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust who stepped up to become acting chief executive at the organisation following a troubled period has earned praise for helping to turn around standards. Under the leadership of Cathy Geddes, the trust went from being rated as “requires improvement” by the Care Quality Commission in 2014 to “good” this year. She was praised by the CQC for shifting the trust from a “culture of blame…to one of openness and transparency”.

In other news, nurses and health visitors in Barnsley have been denied extra holiday time provided to other staff according to a union. Unite claimed Barnsley Council had refused to award around 30 nursing employees an additional day off that has been given to others, unless they surrendered terms and conditions agreed when they moved from the NHS earlier this year. The council said healthcare professionals were given the choice to move to the council’s terms and conditions and that those who had would receive the extra day’s leave.

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