Peter Carter blogs on the Government’s flagship proposal on nurse education, and what the RCN will do to influence the plans.
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of media coverage of the Government’s proposal to make would-be nurses work as a health care assistant (HCA) for up to a year, before starting their nurse training. I have been inundated with letters and emails from RCN members and the public on the issue, with some backing the Government’s flagship proposal. There are some that have questioned why the RCN has expressed such serious concern over the issue; surely more training for nurses can’t be a bad thing?
The RCN wants our nurses of the future to be able to deal with all that the profession will demand of them and we need a system that recognises the need for compassion and high quality care. We also agree with the need for those intending to commence nurse training to have a realistic understanding of what the job entails, to have the right values and to have the resilience to work in today’s NHS. However, we are not convinced that the Government’s proposal will necessarily achieve this.
That said, the RCN is an organisation that seeks to work with government, not against it, in order to achieve positive change for both staff and patients.
We will do this by taking an active role in the ‘pilot’ programmes that are being planned across the UK, and will continue to offer constructive advice about how to improve the way in which we education student nurses.
These pilots will be crucial in answering some of the key questions associated with the proposal, including: how will it work in practice? Who will mentor the students working as HCAs and what will the criteria be for passing (or otherwise)? We look forward to this crucial process; students and patients deserve clarity over what is an exceptionally important proposal.
The time has come to get to work, and rigorously evaluate what has been seen by many as the Government’s flagship proposal in response to the Francis report. We will also take the time to listen to patients about how they feel the education system should work and the experiences that they believe are essential. The RCN plans to be at the very heart of all of this work.
Dr Peter Carter
Chief Executive & General Secretary, RCN