While funding to increase apprenticeships to 2000 per year is welcome, the Government must do more to achieve the 50,000 new nursing staff promised by the Prime Minister, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said.
The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that healthcare employers would be incentivised to take on up to 2000 nursing apprentices per year (up from around 1000 per year) for the next four years.
The RCN welcomed the move, but reiterated calls for an end to self-funded tuition fees and reintroduction of a universal maintenance grant for all nursing students in order to fill the thousands of nursing vacancies in England.
‘This increase in places is a welcome step and we hope it will make a career in nursing more accessible for those fortunate enough to secure a places,’ said Mike Adams, Royal College of Nursing Director for England.
‘It does, however, fall short of the wider investment needed to educate enough registered nurses for the future, ensuring health and care services have the staff needed. The full-time three-year nursing degree remains the best way to increase domestic nursing supply at the scale and pace needed. The government must abolish self-funded tuition fees for all nursing students as well as introducing universal living maintenance grants that reflect actual student need if it is truly committed on delivering the 50,000 more nurses they promised.’
The announcement comes as interest in health careers has surged, with the number of people looking for information on nursing on the NHS careers website rising by 138% between March and June. Nursing degree apprenticeships provide a route into nursing where people can train to nationally recognised standards and earn as they learn, benefiting those for whom a full-time university course is not practical or preferred. Apprenticeships typically take four years, compared with three years for a full-time nursing degree.
‘I’m thrilled to see a rising interest in nursing careers, but we must ensure this fantastic career is truly diverse and open to all,’ said Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.
‘Nursing apprenticeships allow students to earn as they learn and this new funding will enable healthcare employers to hire thousands more, helping us to deliver 50,000 more nurses by the end of this Parliament.’