Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

'Apprenticeships are a brilliant opportunity for people to join the NHS'

Anne Milton

The NHS recently celebrated its 70th anniversary. The celebrations reminded us all of how many lives the NHS touches. And it’s no exaggeration to say that throughout most of the NHS’s existence, apprentices have made a huge contribution to its success.

Apprenticeships provide a route into lots of fantastic industries. And for the NHS, apprenticeships play a key role in making sure we have the skilled people we need. Apprenticeships give opportunities to people of all ages and backgrounds to get a rewarding career.

The inspirational nursing workforce is a major part of the NHS. We want nursing to be a career open to everyone, and to make sure there are enough staff to maintain high-quality care in the face of growing patient demand.

But it’s not just about recruiting into nursing: we know that to make sure the NHS has a workforce fit for the future, we need to look at retention, development, and returning to practice.

“We’ve made developing new, high-quality apprenticeships in nursing a priority”

We’ve been making big changes to the way apprenticeships work in this country, improving their quality so that they give people and employers the skills to thrive. And to make sure that nursing is a career with clear progression, we’ve made developing new, high-quality apprenticeships in nursing a priority.

The new apprenticeships offer alternative routes into nursing, where you can earn while you learn. They give people of all ages and from all walks of life, including those already in the NHS who might not be able to study full-time, the chance to learn on the job.

We approved the nursing associate apprenticeship, designed to help bridge the skills gap between healthcare assistants and registered nurses. It allows people to come into the NHS at entry level and go on to become nurses. It’s been a real success, with 5,000 apprentices planned to start in 2018, and a further 7,500 starting in 2019.

In May last year, we also approved the nurse degree apprenticeship. The first nurse degree apprentices started in September 2017, and there have been 260 so far. These numbers are expected to rise as more NHS trusts see their benefits and build apprenticeships into their workforce planning.

And for nurses who want to develop their skills even further, we have created the advanced clinical practitioner apprenticeship – so the career ladder continues.

Why is this important? Because you can now start off, at entry level in the NHS, knowing that there is a complete pathway for you to continue as an apprentice and reach advanced clinical practice in nursing.

It means the doors are open to people of all backgrounds to enter a nursing career, and to gain the skills they need to reach their full potential.

“An apprenticeship can change your life and working with an apprentice can change your team and the services provided”

Across the country, opening up different apprenticeship routes is having a clear impact. Numbers of nurse apprenticeships are increasing, and that’s partly down to the drive of NHS trusts. Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust has employed over 400 new apprentices this year and Ipswich Hospital has employed over 100.

Just last month, 20 nurse degree apprentices started their training programme at Leeds. Lancashire Teaching Hospital aims to develop and retain local talent for the long-term, recruiting local candidates via an apprenticeship and offering them the opportunity to continue their learning at university.

But what do apprentices themselves think about this? We are hearing positive feedback from Health Education England. Nurse apprentices they have spoken to are delighted they can join the workforce without having to go to university and taking out a student loan.

An apprenticeship can change your life, and working with an apprentice can change your team and the services provided across the NHS. We want to see more and more people becoming nurse apprentices and joining one of the biggest and best employers in the world: our world-class NHS.

This is a brilliant opportunity for people to join the NHS. To find out more, please visit

Anne Milton is minister of state for skills and apprenticeships; Steve Barclay is minister of state, Department of Health and Social Care


Readers' comments (4)

  • Please don't fudge the role of the Nursing Associate "apprentice" and the Nursing Degree apprenticeship. The nursing associate role requires hardly any qualifications other than a spell as a health care assistant. In a quote from the NHS England site one associate says she has been having spelling and grammar lessons as part of her training. !!!

    The associate role undermines the properly trained and qualified Registered General Nurses who will have responsibility for both healthcare assistants and nursing associates with no apparent role definition between the two.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This shows that Anne Milton and Steve Barclay know nothing about nursing. If they had any respect for our profession they would bring back the bursary.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dear Anonymous - who posted on 29 AUGUST, 2018 1:33 PM

    I studied for a diploma to become a Band 3 Healthcare Assistant, I then studied for 2 more years at University whilst working to gain a Foundation Degree and become an Associate Practitioner Band 4. My role does not in anyway undermine the Registered General Nurses, we work together as a team and I take my direction from them.
    These apprenticeships are a great opportunity and as Healthcare Professionals we should all be supportive of each other.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dear Anonymous who posted 30 AUGUST, 2018 2:45 PM.

    The Healthcare Assistant is a valuable member of the team, they are often thrown into the deep end far too quickly without adequate training. They deserve better. I believe the associate role denies the majority of HCA's the extra training that would make their role easier and safer. A band 5 nurse relies heavily on them. It seems now the registered nurse is going to have responsibility for both the HCA and the Associate with the latter having no defined role. How on earth is that going to work? If you want to be a qualified nurse do the training and take the responsibility.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.