A renewed focus on fast-track nurse degree training for healthcare assistants is to be introduced by Health Education England, following a major review of education and training due out this week.
The move is expected to have the double effect of improving career options for HCAs – long seen as an issue for the health service – and as a means of speeding up the supply of home-grown nurses to help deal with the current shortage in registrants.
“We will create a standardised education and training framework, and we will also promote work-based learning opportunities”
The national workforce planning body has told Nursing Times that it will draw up a standardised education and training framework for universities and employers in England, which allows students to use prior relevant experience to account for some elements of their degree.
This type of fast track training – referred to as accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) – means students can complete their undergraduate nursing degree in less time than the standard three years.
HEE said its new framework will focus on students being able to use previous experience that demonstrates they have the required knowledge and skills to account for up to half of their degree – meaning they will be able to graduate within one and a half years.
Pre-registration nurse degree applicants with relevant experience are already able to gain a degree within this timeframe. Guidance from the Nursing and Midwifery Council states that approved education institutions “must have processes in place to allow APEL for up to a maximum of 50% of the programme, provided all requirements are met in full”.
However, it is down to each university to decide how much of a student’s course can be accredited from previous experience and Nursing Times understands that no data is collected on how many universities or students are taking advantage of the facility – the suggestion being that its use is not currently widespread.
The new framework will seek to standardise the process and, as a result, encourage universities and employers to consider whether more people with prior experience could be eligible for fast-track training.
A spokeswoman for HEE said: “We will create a standardised education and training framework that will enable us to APEL individuals up to 50% of a standard pre-registration programme, and we will also promote work-based learning opportunities.”
Nursing Times understands HEE will introduce the new framework in response to the Shape of Caring Review,which is due to publish its findings later this week.
- Willis: New senior HCA role would ‘bridge gap’ to registered nursing
- Review identifies vital need to find out why student nurses drop out
- HCAs should have ‘e-portfolio’ of competencies to prove their worth
- Shake-up of current model of nurse training specialisms needed, says Willis
- Newly-qualifieds should do year-long preceptorship including research
The review was commissioned to look at the future of both pre-registration and post-registration nurse education and training in England, after concerns were raised about standards in the wake of the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
The review, which was set up in May by HEE, is being chaired by Lord Willis of Knaresborough who has previously stated that the report will focus on training for healthcare assistants and continuing professional development for nurses.
He also revealed last year that his final report would include a recommendation about required “prior experience” for student nurses before they begin nursing degrees.
Lord Willis speaks at the 2014 RCN Congress
In an exclusive interview with Nursing Times, he said: “I think a year [of prior experience] is too much, because I don’t think it is financially sustainable to deliver. But what the public demand – and which, as a minimum, patients should demand – is that nobody works with a patient without appropriate training and experience.”
It follows the introduction of a controversial government pilot scheme in which future student nurses spend from three months to a year working as healthcare assistants before beginning their degree.
The ongoing pilot, which is being run by HEE, formed part of the government’s initial response to the Francis report in 2013, with ministers seeing it as part of the solution to what was perceived as a lack of compassion shown to patients by some nursing staff.
Other recommendations from the Willis review are expected to focus on how much generalist and specialist training student nurses should have.
As reported by Nursing Times in December, members of the group leading the review told delegates at the chief nursing officer’s summit that they were looking into a new model of education to address concerns that current training leaves students in “silos”.
Currently, nurses pick one of four specialisms to study at university – adult, paediatrics, mental health, or learning disability nursing.
The review is expected to make recommendations that could see students spend more years learning general nursing skills before specialising at a later point.