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Nurses to retrain as doctors in less than five years under government proposals

Nurses could retrain as doctors in less than five years under government proposals that would make it easier for healthcare professionals to retrain as a doctor or nurse.

The Government will consider allowing nurses, as well as pharmacists and physiotherapists, to switch disciplines ‘more quickly’ without having to ‘start from square one’, it announced on Sunday (9 February).

Currently, training standards are set by the EU, meaning that healthcare professionals wishing to move into another area must complete a set training course.

This includes 5,500 hours of training and a minimum of five years to become a doctor, and a minimum 4,600 hours of training and a minimum of three years to become a nurse.

But under the new system, newly designed courses could reduce ‘unnecessary duplications’ by taking into account existing training rather than fixed time-frames.

The possible lengths training courses is not yet known and will form a key part of government considerations around the proposals, said the Department for Health. 

No changes to training courses will be implemented until at least December 2020 and all new courses will be approved by the relevant regulator, it added.

The Government said it hopes the potential changes would allow people from a wider range of backgrounds to train by allowing for more flexible hours around caring or parenting responsibilities.

The change would also contribute to the Government’s pledge to deliver 50,000 more nurses and 6,000 more GPs by 2025, it said.

Any new education and training courses will be ‘rigorously tested to make sure the UK’s high medical standards continue to be met’, the Government said.

Professionals must be ‘safe’

Responding to the announcement, director of nursing, policy and practice for the Royal College of Nursing Susan Masters cautioned that 'standards of education must remain high'.

'When every profession in health care is facing shortages, the key to filling jobs and keeping patients safe is to attract more people overall as well as allow existing professionals to move around,' she continued 

Health secretary Matt Hancock said he welcomed the chance to ‘review any unnecessary barriers’ that can delay healthcare professionals ‘from reaching their full potential’.

He continued: ‘Without being bound by EU regulations, we can focus on ensuring our workforce has the necessary training which is best suited to them and their experience, without ever compromising on our high standards of care or on patient safety.’

Chief people officer for the NHS Prerana Issar said: ‘Cutting unnecessary red tape, while keeping and strengthening essential safety standards, will enable our committed staff to retrain for other new and exciting roles.’

Chief executive at the Nursing and Midwifery Council said: ‘The NMC supports the wish to explore how education and training for registered nurses and midwives may be achieved in more flexible ways while ensuring our high standards are maintained and not compromised.  Every nursing and midwifery professional must be safe and competent to provide the best care and support possible.

‘We look forward to working with the Government, in consultation with the public, professionals and our partners, to ensure any new proposals are soundly based, deliverable and act in the best interests of people.’