Training unrecognised talent to plug the nursing shortfall

Professor Kay Caldwell, Head of the Institute of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at Middlesex, outlines the University’s innovative courses which allow nurses and midwives trained overseas to gain a qualification and do the same job in the UK

The crisis in fully qualified nurse staffing, which we all predicted, is now having a significant impact on the ability to recruit and retain registered nurses, and will inevitably impact on our ability to deliver safe and effective care. The time at which we can no longer rely on goodwill and unpaid overtime to shore up a failing workforce planning process is fast approaching.

With one in ten posts unfilled on a national basis, rising to over 20% in some London organisations, and more nurses leaving the register than joining (45% more UK registrants left than joined in the last year ) things can only get worse. There is little evidence of a coherent, evidence-based policy response from the Government who cut nursing training places by 17% between 2009 and 2013. The introduction of the new Nursing Associate apprenticeship role, the removal of bursaries and introduction of the student loan system for nursing students are not going to provide a solution to a growing crisis in the profession. However, having long predicted a chaotic outcome from poorly evidenced and reactive policies, colleagues at Middlesex University London have quietly worked with our NHS partners on developing new training routes for their existing and future workforce for the last six years.

The first cohort of nurses from the new diploma celebrating at graduation

In 2011, when we introduced the new graduate nursing programme, and recognising that a significant number of our traditional applicants would not meet entry requirements, we developed a diploma alongside the nursing degree course. This is a diploma to prepare students to practice as assistant practitioners after a two-year course, with the opportunity for them to undertake a further 18 month accreditation of prior learning (APL) transition route to a degree in nursing and registration as a nurse.

This project was so successful that when the Royal Free London NHS Trust asked us if there was anything we could offer their qualified midwives who trained overseas and were working as healthcare assistants (because they were not eligible to register with the National Midwifery Council) we adopted a similar approach and developed and piloted an 18 month APL transition route to meet their needs, again which was hugely successful, with minimal drop-outs and excellent achievement.

Interest in this pilot led a number of other Hospital Trusts to discover this unrecognised pool of talent within their organisations (nearly 300 in one Trust alone) and so the programme has gone from strength to strength. Today, Wednesday 20 July, our pilot cohort of 20 – who are all working as staff nurses in the Royal Free Hospital – join us for their graduation event. A further 29 are expected to graduate in September.

This development was designed to align closely with the Capital Nurse project in helping to build and sustain the London nursing workforce.

Middlesex University London has a long tradition of transforming health and social care students into the key workers who are essential for the London and wider UK economies. This year alone, some 343 nurses graduated with us. Working in partnership is fundamental to everything that we do.

Find out more about our Nursing and Midwifery programmes

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