This site is intended for health professionals only

Student nurse HCA pilot scheme launched

England's top nurses will oversee the pilot scheme for student nurses to work as healthcare assistants before their degree. 

The group includes nursing leaders from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the Care Quality Commission (CQC), NHS England, the Department of Health, Public Health England, NHS Employers and the NHS Trust Development Authority.

The Francis report into the failings at Mid Staffs recommended that student nurses spend three months working on direct care. 

However in the government's response to the report it was suggested that student nurses should spend up to a year working on the front line in order to receive NHS funding for their degree. 

The steering group announced today will oversee a pilot programme, working with partners across the NHS and higher education, to see how best to take forward these proposals and assess the most appropriate timescale.

Pilots are likely to involve up to 200 nursing students on paid placements across the country from this autumn and the steering group will also be responsible for evaluation in areas including the ability to test for values and behaviours and reductions in attrition rates.

“By asking prospective students to undertake up to a year of experience on the front line, we can start to ensure that the NHS recruits not just for skills and academic ability but also for values and behaviours that can be tested in a healthcare environment before the NHS spends thousands of pounds on their education,” said Professor Ian Cumming OBE, chief executive of Health Education England. 

“The healthcare experience will allow students to understand whether nursing and hands-on care is right for them. It will mean better, more experienced and more committed students in our universities.”

Health Education England believes that having student nurses work as HCAs before study would “reduce the drop out rates.” 

Sir Stephen Moss, Chair of the steering group, said: “I am delighted to have been asked to chair the steering group for this important piece of work and look forward very much to working with a very experienced and committed group of colleagues on the implementation and evaluation of the pilots.

Sir Stephen said: 'I am proud to be a nurse and want to do everything I can to ensure that we take this opportunity to address the many challenges currently facing our profession.

He said: 'It is vitally important that we deliver skilled patient care, with kindness and compassion, and piloting this pre-degree experience will enable us to test out the effectiveness of exposing potential students to front line care and professional values at an early stage, before their formal degree programme. Of one thing I am certain, that is that things cannot stay as they are. We owe it to those we serve to continually seek new and innovative ways to meet their needs.'