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The priorities for nurse education

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Nurses' leaders have come into conflict with the government over proposals to 'force' would-be student nurses to serve a year as healthcare assistants (HCAs) prior to nurse training. But they agree a greater focus needs to placed on nursing mentorship and practice training in community settings.

Last month, health secretary Jeremy Hunt stated student nurses would be expected to spend 'up to a year' working as HCAs, helping patients eat, wash and get dressed,prior to embarking on nurse training.

His pledge followed a recommendation in the Francis report into care failings in Mid-Staffordshire that there should be a national entry-level requirement for student nurses to spend a 'minimum period of time, at least three months, working on the direct care of patients, under the supervision of a registered nurse.'

Funding denied

Mr Hunt announced any student nurse who refused to undertake hands-on tasks usually carried out by HCAs would be denied NHS funding for their degree (worth £40,000 over three years and relied upon by almost all the 20,000 new student nurses a year). In effect this means they would be debarred from training.

Pilot schemes for the training may be up and running as early as autumn 2013, with different periods of time being tested.

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