Blueprint for the future of nurse training published

Widening access to nursing and providing better career development to healthcare assistants (HCAs) are key recommendations of a national review into care and nursing education. 

The Shape of Caring review, led by Lord Willis, has made 34 recommendations for the future education and training of nurses and care assistants. 

One interesting recommendation is that Health Education England (HEE), which commissioned the report alongside the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) should work with the care sector to develop an e-portfolio tool that will allow ‘signed-off competencies’ to be recorded electronically on a national database. 

The Shape of Caring Review proposes a major overhaul of the way HCAs are trained, calling for national competency standards to be developed for the workforce across both health and social care in England. 

It was suggested that HEE should evaluate the impact of the Care Certificate on care outcomes and patient experience, and subject to this happening any future government should ensure the certificate is a mandatory requirement. 

Lord Willis (pictured), the independent chair of the review, said: “There are 1.3 million care assistants and half a million registered nurses in England: it is vital to invest in this essential workforce. 

Lord Willis“In the future, patients and the public will have more complex clinical needs and higher expectations than ever before. The education and training of nurses and care assistants need to reflect the changing care environment, and equip them to deliver high quality care. I hope that it will be seen as a framework to shape the debate on how we can develop a world class caring workforce.” 

The review noted that where possible, new undergraduate approaches should encourage care assistants to enter nursing by widening access and removing barriers, such as finance and travel. 

“Without undermining the standard of pre-registration, the system needs to recognise the skills and experience that support staff can bring to the nursing profession,” it noted. 

Lord Willis added that the next step must be to develop an action plan that will take forward this work and translate the recommendations into short, medium and long-term achievement objectives. It was noted that current proposals are “purely recommendations at this stage”. 

Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar, said: “We very much welcome the Shape of Caring report, which makes some significant recommendations about the quality of education for nurses in years to come. 

“It is vital that we work with others across the UK to continue to increase our understanding of nurse education and patient needs.” 

The review said it would encourage employers to employ their registered nurses as they leave their third year of training, and incentivise them with the prospect of employment once they register. 

This suggestion is not limited to acute care, but care homes, social enterprises, GP practices and community organisations. This would need to be encouraged through “robust preceptorship programmes” so that students can continue their learning journey in a secure and vibrant learning environment. 

Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, director of nursing at HEE, said: “HEE is already engaged in key areas of work which are relevant to the review including the development of a Care Certificate; pre-degree care experience and development of higher apprenticeship routes into pre-registration nursing.” 

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said a great many care assistants have the talent and commitment to become nurses, and employers want to ensure their ambitions can be realised. “Developing clear, diverse entry routes is therefore vital,” he said. 

The review highlighted that the Shape of Training review has already acknowledged the need within medical education for a balance between generalist and specialist skills; and a similar change in emphasis is recommended for the nursing profession. 

Responding to the publication, Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “This is a comprehensive review with a number of recommendations which should generate a lively and important debate around the training and career development of nursing staff and it is vital that it is not simply left to gather dust. 

“An important area raised in this report is the need for much more work improving the ongoing development and training of nursing staff after they have graduated. Not developing staff is a false economy, and a lost opportunity for improving patient care.” 

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