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All degree push for nurses may have caused problems, claims Abbott


A former shadow health minister has admitted that Labour’s push for all new nurses to be educated to degree-level may be responsible for some of the current problems in the health service.

Diane Abbott, who was recently removed from her role by Ed Miliband as he reshuffled his frontbench team, claims that putting an emphasis on exams and inputting data on a computer has had a detrimental effect on the basic levels of care.

The Labour MP believes the latter skills are what people really value in a nurse, not how well they can navigate IT systems.

“You will be aware at the disappointment that there’s still no proper system of regulation for healthcare assistants,” she told health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

“But do you also understand that for many members of the public, one of the problems with general standards of care in the health service may have been the push under a Labour government for an all-graduate nursing profession.

“And there is a view, which is strongly held by members of the public, that what that has led to is elevating taking exams and inputting data on a computer over and above the basic levels of care, which is what the public really value in a nurse.”

Mr Hunt echoed these sentiments and admitted that something needs to be done to remedy the situation.

“Never have you spoken with so much support on this side of the House - not wishing to destroy your credibility with your own party,” he said.

“You point to something the public feels very strongly about and I think is an issue in some parts of the nursing profession.”

The health secretary stands by his idea that people should spend some time on the frontline as a healthcare assistant before becoming a nurse.

He claims this would ensure that individuals going into nursing have the right values and recognise that giving personal care is a fundamental part of being what a nurse is all about.

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Readers' comments (31)

  • Oh shut up Diane!!

    You obviously know f*** all about Nursing. Your government was as guilty as any other government in making the lives of nurses a living hell with targets, audits and interminable data input. That's the problem. We know what to do. We need ignorant government idiots (past and present) to leave us alone to do it! For God's sake!!!

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  • I think Diane has a point here. I can understand why an all degree profession should be an aspiration, but I feel that it will probably prevent many who'd be excellent nurses from pursuing a career.

    Why not allow nurses to qualify with a diploma and then top up to a degree when they get settled in their speciality - lifelong learning and all that.

    Flexibility might allow us to have some excellent people in nursing that were now turning away.

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  • The last labour government with it's 4 hour targets caused mayhem in the NHS. Patients were moved out of A&E at all costs to understaffed areas where staff were unable to cope with the patient flow and provide adequate care. A lot of experienced nurses without degrees predicted it would all end in tears.

    I do think Diane has a point about degree level training, the entry qualifications exclude far too many people who may want to nurse and have the skills for it.

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  • I really wish we could stop blaming everything on nurses with degrees. Nurses without degrees were, for years, blythely abusing and killing patients with poor non-evidenced based practice. I trained in the 1980s when we were still dealing with patients who had been locked up for decades in asylums for no good reason. All looked after by nurses without degrees. Patients in hospitals were kept in bed for days and weeks post-op, post-MI, etc and died from DVTs and PEs, or developed bedsores. All looked after by nurses without degrees. The Consultants lorded around the joint with little nurses running around making their tea. Mortality and morbidity rates were higher and Nursing itself was a lot simpler.
    I see non-degree nurses seriously beginning to struggle with mentoring students because their knowledge outside of their own area is very limited.
    You don't need a degree to be compassionate or caring, but the nurses of today must be educated and trained to a level far higher than decades ago. To degree level. We must not go back.

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  • if we are going to do away with degrees for nurses we might as well do away with them for every other profession. i am sure there are many people who would make great teachers, lawyers, etc. if only they had better entry qualifications. it's a pointless argument.

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  • Degree does not adequately prepare nurses. Unofficially, 2 thirds new nurses cannot get job. many consider them unprepared as do students themselves.
    useful updates here
    many enter nursing now for wrong reason eg research/manager. some make great nurses but cannot do assignments- who writes them at patients bedside? I know who I would rather care for me. Keep degree for lecturers/ researchers/ managers.
    many from overseas have no qualification
    we could use eg from some overseas eg 6 months in whatever field they wish to practice.

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  • anon 20.11 correct do not just blame degrees BUT also consider socio-political aspects. It was normal treatment to chain mentally ill up- as still is in some countries. I am saying- degree does not cure all.

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  • Carol Simon is right, but the same was said of Project 2000 nurses not being adequately prepared.

    Keep the degree I say, but allow a more flexible way in for those who would make great nurses, but who are now currently being turned away.

    I worry as in my patch, someone with a 'health-related degree' (not nursing) can qualify as a nurse in two years with a MSc. having a degree in health and social care does not compare with missing a year of your training.

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  • Its strange how all-graduate nurses seem to get a lot of blame for things. The change was announced in 2010 to be compulsory by 2013. Some universities adapted to this early for 2011 intakes, those of which will graduate next year. We are yet to see the fruition of the all graduate scheme, but many are already willing to point the finger of blame?!

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  • carol dimon | 20-Nov-2013 4:23 pm

    "Degree does not adequately prepare nurses." Says who? You? Evidence? (I mean stats, not websites)

    I trained in the 1980s when it was common to leave 2nd year students in charge of wards on night shift!

    "many enter nursing now for wrong reason eg research/manager." Says who? You? Where is the evidence?

    carol dimon | 20-Nov-2013 4:45 pm

    I didn't mention chaining "mentally ill up". I spoke about locking patients in asylums. Not the same thing. Many of them were not actually mentally ill. Do you know why the "normal treatment" meted out then changed? Because Nurses became better educated and research showed that the "normal treatment" was in fact, abuse.

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