NHS Long Term Plan to boost nurse apprenticeships

England’s most senior nurse has called on NHS organisations to boost the number of nursing apprenticeships they offer to local people, to help deliver the health service’s Long Term Plan to improve patient care.

Almost 1,800 new nursing apprentices have already started their training over the last couple of years – but NHS chiefs want thousands more to be given the opportunity to earn while they learn.

England’s Chief Nursing Officer, Ruth May last week met 17 nurses in Cambridge who are among the first in the country to complete their qualifications through the scheme.

The new NHS recruits are given a triple package of on-the-job training, free tuition fees and an annual wage, meaning people of all ages have a chance to earn while they learn to provide care.

Increasing nursing apprentices is just one part of a turbocharged national recruitment campaign, helping deliver the Government’s commitment to increase the nursing workforce in England by 50,000.

The push sits alongside the wide-ranging ‘We are the NHS’ recruitment campaign, which has seen applicants for nursing degrees increase by 6% year on year.

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “The NHS is providing world class care for more patients than ever before, and to carry on doing that we need 50,000 more nurses.

“Boosting the number of nursing apprentices is one important way we can achieve that goal, and as we deliver on our NHS Long Term Plan we want local health service employers to ramp up the number of opportunities they offer to people in their areas.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I’m a massive fan of Apprenticeships, and as the former Apprenticeships Minister, who introduced Nursing Apprenticeships, I’m thrilled to see so many people on Apprenticeships in the NHS.

“Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for people to kickstart their career in healthcare and offer a flexible, alternative route into nursing where you can earn as you learn. Boosting the number of apprentices is an important step towards delivering our commitment to have 50,000 more nurses by 2024/25, and I want to see every Trust doing their part to help us achieve that.

“I’d like to welcome the thousands who have joined our NHS from all ages and backgrounds since the nursing apprenticeships were introduced, and hope to see many more starting over the coming years.”

The NHS is determined to invest in home grown talentwith plans to go much further over the coming year as part of the International Year the Nurse and Midwife 2020, marking the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

In guidance published by NHS leaders recently, local organisations were asked to review their workforce plans for the coming year and ensure apprenticeships form part of them, making full use of the apprenticeship levy.

Cambridge University Hospital Trust is the leading the way with plans to hire 100 nursing apprentices per year.

The former healthcare support workers, ranging from age 23 to 53, completed a four-year course at Anglia Ruskin University to earn their BSc (Hons) degrees.

Lauren Payne, a nursing graduate at Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It gives people a chance to develop and become a nurse over a longer period without the added financial pressure.”

Emma Burgess, a nursing graduate who trained as a mature student at Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It has been a lifelong goal and I’d advise others interested to follow their dreams.”

Ruth May continued: “The success that Lauren and Emma have enjoyed demonstrates how the flexibility of nursing apprenticeships means that whether you’re fresh out of school or have worked in the NHS for years, everyone has a chance to take an extra step on the career ladder.”

“And during the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, there has never been a better time to become a nurse, so I would encourage anyone looking for an exciting and rewarding career to become a nurse apprentice.”

3,910 nursing associate apprentices also started their training in health and care in the last year. The new role of nursing associate can support registered nurses to focus on providing clinical care by performing routine tests, care and treatment, while offering new and existing NHS staff another option for career development by earning a foundation degree.

The NHS has already invested over 50% of its £200 million apprenticeship levy back into creating training opportunities during 2019/20 – significantly more than in the previous year.

Now every NHS trust in the country is being asked to take this a step further and aim for 100% over 2020/21 in order to boost the health service’s workforce.

As well as boosting apprenticeships the NHS will look abroad as well as at home, with a new international recruitment campaign set to be boosted, while the We are NHS campaign has already increased nursing university applicants for nursing by 6% in the last two years.