Why is no one talking about nursing apprenticeships?
Earlier this year, health secretary Jeremy Hunt promised thousands more mental health nurses in the NHS.
Hunt says he wants to tackle the historic imbalance between mental and physical health. The aim is to recruit enough nurses, therapists and consultants to treat an extra 1 million patients by 2020. To achieve this target – already dubbed one of the most ambitious expansions of mental health services in Europe – the NHS will need to recruit an extra 2,000 specialist nurses.
And they'll have to do it quickly. 2020 is just 3 short years away – the amount of time it takes to train a fully qualified nurse.
The NHS needs to recruit a vast number of nurses, fast. This is going to be a big challenge, especially with pressure building across the NHS. This Government has already been widely criticised for driving nurses out of the profession with unfair pay caps, poor working conditions and a lack of student of funding.
Jeremy Hunt scrapped bursaries for student nurses last year – an act that is now being blamed for the decrease in new nursing recruits. Trainee nurses don't want to fork out £9,000 a year in fees to train at university – which is understandable.
But why is no one talking about nursing apprenticeships?
This story has been floating around in the news for a few months now, but no one has mentioned degree-level nursing apprenticeships as a solution. Not even Jeremy Hunt, who introduced them in the first place.
An obvious way the Government will come close to meeting their ambitious mental health target is with nursing apprenticeships. And here's why:
1. They're a quick fix...
Aspiring nurses can now complete a degree-level apprenticeship. They train on-the-job as well as attending university part-time, so the NHS will have support on the ground from day one.
2. ...And a long-term solution
Degree-level apprentices spend time training on the ward and learning at university – so they're both book-smart and hands-on. In fact, by the time apprentices are fully qualified, they already have years of workplace experience, making them valuable employees into the future.
3. They're already paid for
As the UK's largest employer, the NHS has to pay £200 million into the apprenticeship levy every year. This means nurses won't have to pay student fees and the government doesn't have to hand out bursaries – apprenticeship training for student nurses is already paid for by the levy.
4. They're for everyone!
Nursing apprenticeships were introduced to open up the profession to people from all backgrounds. This not only attracts a large volume of people to the role, but allows the NHS to recruit some of the most caring and compassionate staff in our society.
Nursing apprenticeships present a huge opportunity for individuals, trusts and the Government to tackle the UK's mental health crisis – as well as the NHS's staffing crisis. They're the best solution we can think of – but they just need to be talked about more and promoted to people looking to join the NHS and really make a difference.
To find out more about nursing apprenticeships and the impact they can have on the UK's mental health provision, download our complete guide.