Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will announce plans for the new degree-level nurse apprenticeships starting next September, in a speech at the NHS Providers conference in Birmingham today.
The apprenticeships will act as an alternative pathway into nursing from traditional pre-registration degrees. Nurse apprentices will “earn while they learn”, and will not have to pay to train.
The new apprenticeship will “smash the glass ceiling that prevents HCAs from progressing”, Hunt will say.
Nurse apprentices will also be able to train in community and social care settings, and the position will compliment the nursing associate role announced a year ago. Up to 1,000 of the apprentices could join the NHS every year once the pathway is successful.
Derby, Gloucestershire, Greenwich, and Sunderland Universities will be the first to offer the nurse apprenticeships from September 2017.
“Nurses are the lifeblood of our NHS, but the routes to a nursing degree currently shut out some of the most caring, compassionate staff in our country,” Hunt is expected to say.
“I want those who already work with patients to be able to move into the jobs they really want and I know for many, this means becoming a nurse,” he will say. “Not everyone wants to take time off to study full time at university so by creating hundreds of new apprentice nurses, we can help healthcare assistants and others reach their potential as a fully trained nurse.”
Responding to the Government’s consultation, which ended in September this year, RCN said it supported apprenticeships as a new route into nursing. However, the union warned of “serious risks with the pace at which these reforms are being designed and implemented” and a lack of clarity about how the role will fit into the workforce.
The nurse apprenticeship standard is due to be published today by the Skills Funding Agency and will describe the apprentice’s required skills and responsibilities.
Trainees on the apprenticeship scheme will typically be funded by the trust they work for and will be able to join the course at different career stages, depending on their qualifications and experience, and stay in work while learning. At the end of the five-year training the nurse apprentice will have a nursing degree.
RCN chief executive, Janet Davies, said: “Nursing has progressed over many years, we must be careful to learn from the lessons of the past when student nurses were often seen as nursing on the cheap.
“We must be careful we do not create a two-tier system which reduces equality of opportunity. We need to attract people of all ages and from diverse backgrounds into the profession.”
The cost of the apprenticeship training will come under the £4.5m of funding given to universities to develop new courses launching next year.
Skills and apprenticeships minister Robert Halfon said: “Apprenticeships work – that’s why we’ve launched degree apprenticeships that give people a real chance to earn while you learn, putting you on the fast track to a top career.”