Too many barriers are in place preventing nursing degree apprenticeships from becoming a viable alternative to degrees, according to the House of Commons Education Select Committee.
In a new report published today, the committee states that uptake of the new nursing degree apprenticeships has been too slow, with no more than 30 starters beginning training through the scheme last year.
According to the committee, there is no evidence of how the Department for Education intends to meet the target of 400 nursing associates progressing to degree apprenticeships from 2019.
Universities and employers have to navigate a “maze of bureaucracy” when trying to deliver degree apprenticeships, the report goes on to say, calling for more flexibility in the system and in how the apprenticeships levy is used.
Safe care for NHS patients
Students must be in addition to regular staff to ensure safe care for patients, said the committee, and therefore NHS employers should be allowed to use their apprenticeship levy to cover the backfill costs of this ‘”supernumerary status”. Employers should have 48 months instead of 24 to spend their levy, and CPD for nurses should be prioritised.
Importantly, the funding band for nursing degree apprenticeships, currently set at a minimum of £27,000, should remain at least at this level, the report states – and the Institute for Apprenticeships should consider increasing it.
Education committee chair Robert Halfon said the idea that degree apprenticeships were a realistic route into the profession was “currently a mirage”. “Ambitious targets are simply not going to be met,” he said, adding: “There has been a distinct absence of a strategic grasp of the need for nursing degree apprenticeships. The Department for Education must act now to tear down the barriers that are preventing the system being used to its full potential and ensure every future nurse has a real choice about their route into the profession.”
“The DfE has shown a lack of imagination and foresight, and not enough attention has been given to adapting apprenticeships to meet the needs of the NHS. A greater requirement for off-the-job training and the safety requirement of apprentices not replacing qualified nurses means there are huge difficulties in the delivery of degree apprenticeships.”
He said ministers had to now recognise the uniqueness of the health service’s position and allow flexibility in the use of the apprenticeship levy so these apprenticeships could be made to work for both employer and students.
“By removing the road blocks, we can ensure that the NHS can play its part in tackling our economy’s skills shortages, give every student a choice about how they progress and ensure nursing degree apprenticeships are a reality rather than a mirage,” Mr Halfon added.