The government will have a national framework for one-year preceptorship schemes to support newly qualified nurses ready for roll-out within the next six months, Nursing Times can reveal.
Such a move could represent a final breakthrough in the long-running issue of preceptorship schemes.
In a statement last week, a Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We are developing a national framework for preceptorship and that is being led by West Midlands strategic health authority and will be completed by the end of the year.’
This framework will be accompanied shortly afterwards by a set of standards on what the schemes should provide.
‘The NMC will publish standards in 2010 on preceptorships which can be used within our framework,’ the DH spokesperson told Nursing Times.
The pledge follows a renewed political focus on preceptorships in recent weeks.
Health minister Ann Keen spoke on the government’s commitment to such schemes in her speech to RCN Congress earlier this month.
‘Entry to the register is only the beginning of the story. What happens to novice nurses – the experiences they have, the examples they are set and the role models they aspire to – will last them a lifetime and shape them into the professionals they will become,’ she told RCN delegates.
‘This is a crucial period – a bit like becoming a parent for the first time – it sensitises and socialises nurses – for good or ill – into their profession. That is why we have singled out these early days for special attention so that we can give nurses the best initiation possible,’ she said.
‘We are working with the NMC to develop a national framework for preceptorship, to ensure that newly qualified nurses have the competence as well as the confidence to make the transition from trainee to effective practitioner. This will include ensuring that mentors are properly trained and fit for purpose,’ she added.
Additionally, Ms Keen restated a government commitment to triple funding for preceptorship schemes – first made in the NHS Next Stage Review last June – from £10m in April 2008 to £30m over the next three years.
Preceptorship schemes were also included in a Conservative Party consultation on nursing policy, revealed in Nursing Times earlier this month.
The Conservatives said they would examine whether one-year preceptorship schemes could ‘yield’ benefits in retaining nurses and therefore ‘cut the amount of NHS funds wasted’ in terms of training.
They said they would also consider introducing such schemes for newly qualified nurses working in primary care and also outside the NHS.
‘In light of the move to delivering care closer to home, this [preceptorship] could be extended to primary care providers. We will also look to the independent and voluntary sector to provide a one year preceptorship,’ the Conservative document said.
The schemes were also the subject of a short research paper, published recently by the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London, which reviewed opinions about preceptorship and evidence from existing schemes in the UK.
The paper’s authors, senior research fellows Jill Maben and Sarah Robinson, said findings from small-scale studies confirmed that most newly qualified nurses wanted preceptorship.
They added: ‘All studies showed that preceptorship was regarded as having a key role in new nurses gaining confidence and competence.’
However, they also noted potential barriers to their use. For example, workload planning was required to allow staff time to provide preceptorship as well as training in being a preceptor.
‘This will have considerable resource implications and thus represent a challenge in the face of competing budget demands,’ they warned.
The paper added that recognition of new nurses’ need for support first found formal expression as far back as 1986 in proposals from the former nursing regulator, the UKCC, for a four-month post-qualification period of preceptorship.
Each newly qualified nurse was to be allocated to an experienced practitioner working in the same setting. Provision was voluntary but recommended as highly desirable.