An apprenticeship scheme to attract school leavers into healthcare assistant roles is being developed by a London trust to try and create earlier routes into nursing and help bring down its vacancy rate.
University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust currently has 12.5% posts empty among band 2 and 3 HCAs, equivalent to 80 whole-time equivalent roles.
It also has a vacancy rate of just under 14% for registered nurses, representing 381 empty posts.
Both have been reduced over the past year – from an overall vacancy rate of 15.5% in 2014 – due to recruitment and retention initiatives.
“We want to try and try and capture those at GCSE level - so they wouldn’t typically have much in the way of school leaving qualifications”
But the trust wants to do more to bring down this vacancy rate for registered and unregistered staff, from 13% to 7.5% by April.
It is in discussions with local authority Camden Council to develop a 12-month “intermediate apprenticeship” scheme, aimed at people aged 16 to 18.
The organisation hopes to bring in the programme from early 2016, and would expect it to cover elements of the government’s national care certificate, which sets out nationally agreed standards for HCAs.
It said it planned to base the scheme around the existing apprenticeships that it offers to 18 year olds, but hoped that by targeting people at a younger age it would be able to provide training to a group less likely to immediately pursue qualifications for other health roles.
Jane Connor, development nurse at UCLH who is leading the project, told Nursing Times: “We want to try and try and capture those at GCSE level – so they wouldn’t typically have much in the way of school leaving qualifications.”
“[The government’s immigration policy] impacts on us…We know that Filipino nurse have good retention rates and they tend to stay in the organisation for a long time”
She said the trust hoped to make use of the government’s proposed new funding scheme for apprenticeships, which would come from a planned “apprenticeship levy” that all employers would have to pay.
“Effectively, the bigger the organisation, the more money you put in. There is a potential the more apprenticeships you have, the more you can gain in monies to pay for those apprenticeships,” added Ms Connor.
Meanwhile, the trust’s deputy chief nurse Lorraine Szeremeta told Nursing Times that it was introducing a new scheme to help retain nursing staff, by offering a fast-track system for them to apply for internal vacancies.
But she said, despite all these efforts, the trust’s aim to reach a 7.5% vacancy rate by next year was threatened by problems securing visas for overseas nurses.
She said the trust had recruited more than 100 band 5 nurses from the Philippines over the summer but that they were unable to secure the required documents for visas – called certificates of sponsorship – which are allocated by the Home Office.
“This impacts on us,” said Ms Szeremeta . “We know that Filipino nurse have good retention rates and they tend to stay in the organisation for a long time.”
“We know the national context is there are not enough nurse out there to fill the current vacancies, so the international pool was the only way we could bring them in,” she added.