Nursing apprenticeship routes to be expanded

But 5,500 target briefed to journalists was absent from health secretary Jeremy Hunt's speech to the Conservative Party conference

Julia Belgutay

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Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to expand the number of apprenticeship places, which will allow nursing associates to qualify as fully registered nurses. The measures are to be part of what he called “the biggest expansion of nurse training in the history or the NHS”.

Ahead of his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today, a target of 5,500 places was briefed to journalists. The figure was not included in the final version of his speech, however. Hr Hunt told the conference he planned to "[triple] the number of nursing associates so people already in the NHS can become a registered nurse after a four-year apprenticeship without having to do a traditional full time university course".

The plans to tackle staff shortages will also see an expansion of the number of nurse training places by 5,000 – or 25 per cent – according to the health secretary.

Prime minister Theresa May earlier told LBC: “I want to give people opportunities to be able to see that they can become a nurse in a whole variety of different ways. Getting on-the-job training, I think, is very important. We need to ensure that people who are going into nursing aren't just those who perhaps look on it as a degree opportunity.”

Increased opportunities

Geraldine Donworth, ‎industry manager for health, care and childcare at skills body City & Guilds, said the plans for expanded training opportunities for would-be nurses were welcome. “Equally, it’s positive to see his commitment to increase opportunities to get into nursing via an apprenticeship. This is a vital route into a job for many people and will hopefully enable a wider pool of individuals to pursue this rewarding career. With the twin challenges of Brexit and an ageing population, ensuring a pipeline of nursing talent must be a top priority for this government.”

However, she added: “Hunt’s plans must come hand in hand with recognition of the immense pressure healthcare professionals are under, with many facing low pay and long hours. This must be addressed if we are to reap the full benefits of these additional training opportunities.’

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Janet Davies said significant increases to training numbers were welcome. “We desperately need more nurses. However, they must be educated to the highest standards. We are concerned at the risk of students plugging the gaps in the current workforce at the expense of quality patient care and their own learning experience."

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