Creating a degree-level apprenticeship route into nursing has been heralded as part of the solution that will fix the large holes in the workforce – while offering an alternative route into the profession.
Early indications seem to imply it won’t be quite the solution that Jeremy Hunt and the Conservatives had hoped for. Our investigation indicates that only a couple of universities are working with local employers to train up to 46 apprentices between them in 2017, and then we expect around 12 more institutions to seek approval to start courses this Spring.
For universities, it doesn’t seem financially attractive to offer this course, and for employers, it seems too confusing to understand the apprenticeship levy. Employers also have too much to do already with training nursing associates.
There have been heavy hints from the government that this extra route would lead to thousands more nurses flooding rosters, but that is not going to happen.
”We are just going to have the same number of nurses entering the profession, but they will be called different names.”
It seems highly likely that the universities that are training apprentices are merely doing so to plug the gaps from the shortfall in nurses applying to undertake a traditional nursing degree this year.
Even if and when universities do start training their students, we won’t actually have more registered nurses. We are just going to have the same number of nurses entering the profession, but they will be called different names.
I am concerned that the Department of Health may believe that as most of the apprentices’ and nursing associates’ education will be in care settings, they can plug the gaps while training. However, all trainees must be supernumerary if they are to be safely caring for patients and acquiring a quality learning experience.
Mr Hunt’s workforce strategy is rather like that of a man who plugs the roof with tissue paper and wonders why he gets wet when it rains. Quick and cheap fixes will not work.
How much more evidence does he need to see before he realises that the other solutions are just not going to be able to solve this crisis?
There is only one thing to do that will plug this workforce gap – and that is to start paying nurses properly. Pay for their training, and pay them fairly when they qualify and work for the NHS.
Fix the roof, Mr Hunt. The storm clouds are gathering.