Calls to reduce the £100m “wasted” on trainee nurses who drop out before their course is over by requiring applicants to have some care experience have been rejected by the Royal College of Nursing.
At the RCN Congress in Liverpool yesterday, the Suffolk branch proposed all those recruited to pre-registration nursing programmes should be required to have undertaken relevant health or social care experience prior to commencing their course.
Introducing the resolution Lisa Mickleburgh, student member of the branch, said: “Every year nearly £100m is wasted on nursing students who do not complete their training… it cannot be denied that some leave nursing because they decide it wasn’t for them.”
She said evidence showed 60% of drop outs occur in the first year of training while recent studies had found nurses with experience outside of the education system were more likely to complete their course.
The resolution had been submitted before the government’s proposal that individuals seeking funding for a nursing course should have to work as a healthcare assistant for a year.
Describing the government’s proposal as “unrealistic” Ms Mickleburgh said the branch was more in favour of a three month period, as proposed by Robert Francis QC in the Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry report.
She told delegates the resolution was not about ensuring caring and compassionate recruits but for individuals to find out whether nursing was for them.
She said: “At a time when the NHS is under extreme pressure financially can we afford not to ask our universities to be more selective?”
More than 50 members asked to speak on the proposal, however all of those that did were against it.
Lynne Phair, a consultant nurse for safeguarding older people, said: “Why is it OK for the frailest, most vulnerable in society to be the test-bed for whether people are suitable for nursing? Frail older people must not be the guinea pigs.”
A Welsh delegate pointed out that attrition was just 10% in Wales due to better selection processes.
Jessica Curtis, a member of the RCN students committee said: “I did my training straight from sixth form. Does that make me any less compassionate and caring than a mature student on my cohort?”
When put to a vote 19.4% were in favour of the resolution while 80.5% were against.