Health Secretary announces nursing workforce reforms

The reforms include a 25% increase in training posts for nurses and improvements to working conditions.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced wide-ranging reforms to increase nurse training places and retain staff.

A 25% increase in training posts for nurses is part of a range of measures to:

• ensure the NHS meets current and future nursing workforce needs
• improve working conditions
• provide new routes into the profession

The government will provide funding for the clinical placements required for an additional 5,170 pre-registration nurse degrees from 2018. This builds on the commitment to 10,000 more training places for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals announced in August this year.

Nursing associates

A further 5,000 nursing associates will be trained through the apprentice route in 2018, with an additional 7,500 being trained in 2019. Nursing associate is a new role which provides a work-based route into nursing for existing health and care staff or new recruits who may not be able to give up work to study full-time at university.

A new shortened nurse degree apprenticeship route will also be introduced for qualified nursing associates who wish to work towards full Nursing Midwifery Council registered nurse status.

As part of this expansion in nursing staff, we will explore opportunities for higher education institutes to deliver formal classroom teaching in a more innovative way in employers’ facilities. This training will not compromise on quality and will continue to meet the high standards expected of trainees by the nursing regulator, the Nursing Midwifery Council.

Increasing participation and social mobility

The measures are part of the government’s commitment to widen participation and social mobility throughout the health sector. They will also help to reduce the reliance on overseas recruitment by boosting the supply of home-grown nurses.

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, said:

"The NHS will be looking after a million more over-75s in just a decade, so we need to jump-start nurse training.

"This represents the biggest increase in nurse training places in the history of the NHS – and we will make sure that many of the additional places go to healthcare assistants training on hospital sites. This will allow us to expand our nurse workforce with some highly experienced people already working on the NHS frontline.

"We will also improve retention rates amongst our current workforce, introducing new arrangements to support flexible working available to all NHS staff, and a new right of first refusal for affordable housing built on NHS property. Combined with the 25% increase in undergraduate medical school places announced last year it will transform the ability of the NHS to cope with the pressures ahead."

Improving working conditions

As well as training more nurses, the Health Secretary announced new measures to improve working conditions for the NHS workforce, including:

• arrangements to support flexible working to help staff to balance work-life commitment.
• a system of staff banks for flexible workers across the NHS, increasing opportunities for NHS staff to work on NHS terms and reduce agency costs for employers
• a ‘Homes for Nurses’ scheme – which will give 3,000 NHS workers first refusal on affordable housing generated through the sale of surplus NHS land