More than 6,000 students have enrolled on nursing degree apprenticeships since the programme began, figures released today from Health Education England (HEE) to mark National Nurses Week reveal.
The figures go some way towards helping reach the NHS target of 50,000 additional nurses by 2024, as the International Council of Nurses calls for governments to act over a worldwide nursing shortage, warning that it poses ‘the greatest threat to global health’.
Nursing degree apprenticeships offer flexible routes into nursing that don’t require full-time study at university, although they still required students to undertake academic study at degree level and meet the standards laid down by the NMC.
Full registered nurse degree apprenticeship programmes can take up to four years to complete. Nursing associates and assistant practitioners can convert to registered nurses through the apprenticeship route via a shortened programme, which takes around two years to complete.
Mark Radford, chief nurse at HEE, said: ‘Nursing degree apprenticeships offer a great alternative route to becoming a registered nurse.
‘We are delighted that more than 6,000 prospective nurses have taken this route to become registered nurses, and it highlights the NHS’ commitment to giving our hardworking and talented staff the opportunities to progress their careers inside the health service.’
Sharon Maywood, from North West Anglia Foundation Trust, qualified as a staff nurse having first joined the Trust as a healthcare assistant before becoming a nursing associate. She said: ‘I would encourage anyone to do an apprenticeship. It is a fantastic way to gain your qualification and develop your skills.
‘As an apprentice employee, I always felt fully supported with allocated mentors to work alongside, as well as receiving frequent visits from our learning development team. This meant, if I ever had any issues, there was always someone there to help and assist. The added benefit also is that you get to earn while you learn.’
The Department for Health and Social Care announced in August 2020 that healthcare workers would be able to take on 2,000 nursing degree apprenticeships every year for the next four years with £172m funding, but healthcare leaders warned at the time that it would not solve the workforce gap.
The RCN union, King’s Fund think tank and prominent voices in nursing did not believe it would reverse the high number of vacancies in the profession, which stood at around 40,000 in health and care settings in England before Covid-19 hit.
In March this year, Chris Hopson, NHS Providers’ chief executive, warned how health and care staff shortages are ‘very clearly’ impacting care in the UK, with shortages in the nursing workforce compromising patient care even before the Covid-19 pandemic began, data has suggested.