The Chief Nursing Officer for England has announced a new fast track ‘Nurse First’ programme to attract high-achieving graduates into a career in nursing.
The plans for a new fast track postgraduate programme are set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View Next Steps plan. Based on the Teach First programme, it aims to help address workforce capacity and support the development of future nurse leaders in key areas, targeting mental health and learning disabilities in the first instance.
Successful applicants will attend an educational course as well as receive hands on experience and training within the NHS. They will then be given the opportunity to enter a development scheme to rapidly progress their careers to leadership posts within five to seven years.
Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “More people are training to join the NHS every year and we remain on target in terms of overall recruitment although there are still gaps in our nursing workforce. As frontline staff and services continue to face pressures from rising demand and more complex care, we know our workforce must continue to grow and adapt if it is to delivering diverse, high quality care to more patients than ever before.
“As a profession, nursing has always greatly benefited from the varied backgrounds and life experience of its staff. It’s vital we continue to attract the best and brightest graduates, offering additional entry routes and career opportunities, so that we can continue to deliver specialist, high quality care to all.”
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “There is a critical shortage of nurses in the NHS and unsafe staffing levels put high quality patient care at risk. Measures to increase the number of registered nurses are very welcome and the ‘Nurse First’ initiative is a positive way to attract talented graduates. Nursing is a hugely rewarding, complex and responsible profession.
“It is crucial to focus on retaining nurses who are deciding to leave and offer flexible employment to encourage people to return to nursing in the NHS.“
The plan also talks about other ways of increasing the NHS capacity, for instance, through a new nurse retention collaborative run by NHS Improvement and NHS Employers which will support 30 trusts with the highest turnover of staff and through a returner intiative. NHS England says there are over 50,000 registered nurses in England not currently working for the NHS. It takes three years and £50-70,000 to train a nurse, but only £2,000 and three to twelve months to retrain a returning nurse. The returner intiative aims to support 1,500-2000 nurses to return to work over the next two years.