On 30th November 2016, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has announced a new nursing degree apprenticeship where student nurses can train on the job rather than having to complete a university degree. Nurses will be able to “earn as they learn” under new plans for part-time degrees.
Jeremy Hunt said the new nursing degree apprenticeships will encourage people from all backgrounds into the profession. He hopes the apprenticeships will offer a new route into nursing for those put off by a full-time degree. Student nurses will be able to qualify over four or five years – instead of the usual three years.
The new apprenticeships complements the Nursing Associate Role announced in 2015. Both the initiatives aim to offer flexible routes into nursing in England. The new role will sit with fully qualified nurses and nursing associates, which has come under fire over concerns about "nursing on the cheap".
The Chief Nursing Officer for England, Professor Jane Cummings, said the Nursing Degree Apprenticeship offers a new, exciting route into nursing that is open to more people whether they are already working in the National Health Service (NHS) or would like to pursue a career in nursing. Now, thousands of students can train as nurses without attending the university full-time.
From September 2017, the first apprentice nurses could be working on wards and each year up to 1,000 apprentice nurses could join the NHS.
Presently, there are about 20,000 apprentices working in the NHS, and earlier this year the government promised to create an additional 100,000 apprenticeships in the sector by 2020.
Currently, student nurses at University have their course fees paid. They are entitled to bursaries of £4,500 to £5,500 if they live in London - as well as a grant of £1,000 every year during their course. But the government has planned scrapping this funding and introducing university fees to bring health staff in line with other students. Some Financial Support will be still provided by the NHS such as travel costs for placements.
The Department of Health (D0H) has confirmed that apprentices would receive a salary and this would be set locally.
The Chief Executive of Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies has described the new nursing degree apprenticeships plan as "ridiculous".
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