The move to degree-level registration of all nurses in the UK does not impact on their ability or desire to care with compassion as well as expertise, according to the interim findings of an independent commission.
The Willis Commission on Nursing Education, chaired by Lord Willis of Knaresborough, found that health service employers and universities needed to work more closely to ensure that nursing students are better prepared and supported in their practice learning experiences.
However, it did not find any link between degree-level training and a lack of compassionate care.
The commission concluded: 'With all pre-registration nursing education in the UK moving to degree level, the Commission has seen no evidence to support the view that graduate nurses are "too posh to wash".'
Lord Willis said: 'The public needs to know what it can expect of registered nurses, and what degree-level registration means. We need to get the emphasis right and select candidates who have all the qualities that good nurses need, working with head, hands and heart.
'And we need to make sure we have good patient and public involvement in the development, delivery and review of nursing education.'
Lord Willis's commission is investigating what features of pre-registration nursing education in the UK are needed to create and maintain a workforce of 'competent, compassionate nurses fit to deliver future health and social care services'.
Its interim report claims a national clinical nursing structure is needed to provide clarity about the future roles and responsibilities of graduate nurses, 'in the context of the multidisciplinary health and social care team'.
'This links closely with concerns about the lack of regulation, consistent standards and training for healthcare support workers, who play an increasingly important part in delivering care,' the commission said.
The final report is due to be published by the end of 2012, and will make recommendations to help policy-makers determine what human and financial resources for pre-registration nursing education are needed to produce a nursing workforce fit for the future.