Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that the Government will increase the number of nurses trained by 25%, a ‘permanent increase of more than 5,000 nurse training places every single year’.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today, Mr Hunt called it ‘the biggest expansion of nurse training in the history of the NHS.’
He explained that they will not just increase ‘traditional university places’, but also ‘triple the number of nursing associates, so that 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.’
Derby, Wolverhampton and Coventry universities will run these apprenticeship nursing courses in community and hospital settings, with further universities to follow.
Mr Hunt also addressed the 150,000 EU workers within the NHS, claiming that he is ‘confident’ that they will be able to stay in the UK ‘with the same rights that you have now.’
New flexible working arrangements will also be offered to NHS employees during the current parliament, but 2018 pay awards will only be determined after the NHS Pay Review Body had made its recommendations.
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Responding to the announcement, Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘Significant increases to training numbers is 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.’
Chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, Jackie Smith, said: ‘It’s understandable that the Government want to address the challenges facing the profession by increasing the number of registered nurses and nursing associates, but our role is to protect the public by making sure that all those wishing to join our register meet our rigorous standards.
‘If the necessary changes to our legislation go through on time, we would expect nursing associates who have completed their training and met our standards to join the register in January 2019. Those standards will ensure a clear distinction between the graduate registered nurse and the nursing associate.
‘The Government has always been clear that nursing associate will be a profession in its own right and for those who want to progress to become a registered nurse, we are working closely with education providers to establish what additional training is required to meet our standards.’