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The role of apprentices in meeting our future healthcare need

14 February 2018

Patrick Mitchell, HEE’s South of England Regional Director, considers the role of apprentices in meeting our future healthcare needs.

Today’s healthcare providers face unprecedented challenges and financial pressures and workforce gaps frequently dominate the news. Our own recently published health and care workforce strategy, Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future, outlined the scale of these challenges.

So, with budgets tight and patient demand growing, HEE teams are supporting new innovative solutions to help address these issues. A recent presentation made clear to me that apprenticeships are part of the solution and we can help health and social care employers navigate what may appear on the surface a complex piece of process.

What's our role?

We discussed the important role HEE needs to play in both promoting apprenticeships and helping to increase the choice of apprenticeships on offer, at a recent South LETB meeting.

Nationally, HEE is actively supporting the development of many new apprenticeships. Working with around 30 Trailblazers (groups of employers working together to initiate new apprenticeships) we are also developing standards which will ensure the quality of new apprenticeships.

In the south we are currently chairing nine of the national Trailblazer groups developing a variety of different healthcare apprenticeships in partnership with hospitals and trusts across the region. The training available ranges from community public health nursing to speech and language therapy and across the south employers, in partnership with HEI, are particularly active in developing an apprenticeship in health care science.

So, how do apprenticeships work?

Designed to bridge the divide between employment and education, apprenticeships enable staff to study while continuing to work. They are available for a range of occupations and at a range of educational levels, from GCSE up to degree level including post-graduate. Indeed, degree level apprenticeships are proving to be very popular.

Employers can use apprenticeships to develop current health care workers or attract new recruits. They are also an excellent way to motivate and retain staff, and reduce the cost of high staff turnover, a key issue for the health and care sector currently.

Employers can get help from the government to pay for apprenticeship training. The amount they receive depends on whether they pay the apprenticeship levy or not.

The Nursing Associate is another great example of how new roles are helping to fill work demand and mitigate some of the shortfalls in supply within the professional workforce and support the retention of existing staff. Developed following the 2015 Shape of Caring Review, this new support role will sit alongside existing healthcare support workers and fully-qualified registered nurses to deliver hands-on care for patients.

Overall, the aim is to create a new type of care worker with a higher skill-set, to support and complement the care given by registered nurses. Having seen them at work for myself looking after my mother in Nottingham I was truly impressed by the commitment and range of duties they were doing.

Since the development of a curriculum framework led by HEE and widespread consultation, the first test sites to train 1,000 new nursing associates were set up in 2016, closely followed by a further 1,000 trainees in Spring last year. More recently, 5,000 apprenticeship training places have been announced for 2018 and a further 7,500 places in 2019.

I am really pleased that in the south we have so far hosted six test sites and will have a further 1,100 apprenticeship training places in 2018 and 2,500 in 2019.

As part of this on-going development, HEE now aims to set up nursing associate test site partnerships and is encouraging health and care employers and education providers to apply to be part of the initiative. Once a partner, the selected test site partnerships will deliver the education and training for the new nursing associate role and help test and establish it.

From 2019, the Nursing Associate role will be regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council and will provide a career option in its own right as well as a new route into registered nursing.

What about the future?

It is clear that apprenticeships and other new roles are an exciting part of the future for health care. The choice of options for apprentices and the breadth of employers and education providers getting involved in their development is expanding rapidly.

With equality, diversity and inclusion core NHS values, opening doors and widening access to the breadth of NHS careers is a specific aspiration for HEE. In 2018, we will be particularly focusing on increasing the number of apprentices with disabilities

Posted by Patrick Mitchell, Regional Director - South, Health Education England

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