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Nursing degree recruitment scheme to tackle staff shortages

NHS England has today launched a recruitment drive in a bid to attract more high quality graduates to the profession.

NHS England has today launched a recruitment drive in a bid to attract more high quality graduates to the profession.


The Nurse First initiative takes its name from the long-running Teach First programme and is part of a wider effort to address falling nurse numbers. ‘There is a critical shortage of nurses in the NHS and unsafe staffing levels put high quality patient care at risk,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Successful Nurse First applicants will take part in an educational course in addition to work-based training within the NHS. The first batch of trainees will begin their studies this September, and it is hoped outstanding trainees will be promoted via development schemes into leadership roles within seven years. The first wave of Nurse First leaders are expected to take up roles in mental health and learning disabilities.

These key areas were described as ‘some of most challenging, but highly rewarding’ by Claire Murdoch, national director for mental health at NHS England, and a registered mental health nurse herself. She said she was ‘delighted’ by the choice of specialisms to be targeted by Nurse First, and noted how such roles provide ‘crucial care and support to some of our most vulnerable.’

Nurse First will launch alongside other new entry routes such as fully-funded, university-based nurse apprenticeships. ‘We know our workforce must continue to grow and adapt,’ said Professor Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England. ‘As a profession, nursing has always greatly benefited from the varied backgrounds and life experience of its staff.’

‘It’s vital we continue to attract the best and brightest graduates by offering additional entry routes and career opportunities’, she said.

Other programmes are seeking to address issues such as poor staff retention or to encourage registered nurses working elsewhere to return to the NHS. There are currently over 50,000 registered nurses in England who do not work for the organisation. ‘It is crucial to focus on retaining nurses who are deciding to leave and offer flexible employment to encourage people to return to nursing in the NHS,’ said Davies.

It takes currently takes three years and £50-70,000 to train a nurse, but only £2000 and between three to twelve months to retrain one. ‘Measures to increase the number of registered nurses are very welcome’ said Davies. ‘The Nurse First initiative is a positive way to attract talented graduates.’