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News | Published December 06 2018

Rapid Improvement reduce NHS shortages as nursing apprenticeships labelled a “mirage”

The Education Select Committee has today published a report, urging The Department for Education to remove barriers to ensure the apprenticeship scheme is not just a mere “mirage.” The DofE has set itself a target of 400 nursing associates progressing to degree apprenticeships by next year, a level that the Committee argues is unachievable if current rates are maintained. According to the report, no more than 30 individuals have begun training under the scheme last year. Rapid Improvement could act as a potential solution to this issue, providing apprentices to various NHS organisations around the country.

The report argues that there is a “maze of bureaucracy” that universities and employers must wade through in order to access these apprenticeship schemes. The report has called for increased use of the apprenticeship levy and further flexibility in the system, allowing applicants to apply more easily and efficiently. The conclusions and recommendations of the report stated that: “There are too many obstacles in the way of nursing degree apprenticeships, making it extremely difficult for the NHS to play its part in achieving the public sector target.”

Key Facts
  • DofE has set target of 400 nurses progressing to degree apprenticeships by next year
  • According to the report, no more than 30 individuals have begun training in the last year
  • Report describes current system as a "mirage"

The Education Committee is made up of 11 backbench MPs and is chaired by Robert Halfon. He commented that: “The idea that degree apprenticeships are a realistic route into the profession is currently a mirage. Ambitious targets are simply not going to be met. There has been a distinct absence of a strategic grasp of the need for nursing degree apprenticeships. The Department for Education must act now to tear down the barriers that are preventing the system being used to its full potential and ensure every future nurse has a real choice about their route into the profession.”

 

There has been a distinct absence of a strategic grasp of the need for nursing degree apprenticeships. The Department for Education must act now to tear down the barriers that are preventing the system being used to its full potential and ensure every future nurse has a real choice about their route into the profession.

The report also called for the funding band for nursing degree apprenticeships to remain at a minimum of £27,000 and added that the Institute for Apprenticeships should think about increasing this further. The committee also highlighted the importance of this in the light of the number of applications falling by a third since the bursary-based system was replaced by a loan system in 2017. They were particularly worried by a significant reduction in the number of applications from mature students.

Rapid Improvement, and other services like it, could provide an alternative solution to falling numbers of nursing apprentices. A contributor to the Care edition of The Parliamentary Review, they are a private company that provides vocational training to prospective care workers and places healthcare professionals into NHS trusts. Since their establishment they have expanded to provide nurses, healthcare assistants, clinical support workers, dentists and doctors to the London, West and East Sussex NHS hospitals. Isaac Dweben, the chief executive of the company, highlighted that “We are on the approved list of Education Skills Funding Agency to supply apprenticeships to the NHS, and we have made rapid progress in helping care organisations build and reskill staff.” 

As Brexit looms, they have adapted to try and combat the projected lack of healthcare professionals. They stated that: “The NHS currently faces a significant skills and labour crisis. The number of UK trained doctors and nurses cannot meet current demand. As the UK leaves the EU, and many European doctors and nurses subsequently return home, this will only increase. With this in mind, we have looked into international expansion in order to recruit the doctors and nurses badly needed to fill this gap.We have established working relationships in Romania and Dubai with local doctors and healthcare recruiting companies.”

Perhaps by engaging more with private companies such as Rapid Improvement, a solution can be found to the falling numbers of nursing apprentices.