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‘Delivering the Healthcare Workforce of the Future’: University Alliance publishes proposals to help tackle the NHS workforce crisis

University Alliance, an association of universities which collectively trains 30% of nurses in England, has today (31 January) published a briefing on ‘Delivering the Healthcare Workforce of the Future’. 

It comes at a time when the NHS is facing a workforce crisis, with over 130,000 vacancies in England and over 46,000 vacant nursing posts – a record high. A key challenge is the need to train more nurses more quickly to the same very high standard. 

Alliance universities must turn away thousands of qualified nursing applicants a year because the NHS lacks capacity to provide the placements nursing students are required to do as part of their qualification. They also struggle to effectively plan long-term investment in nursing training because training providers are not routinely involved in NHS workforce planning.  

The briefing highlights four areas where Universities, the NHS and Government can work together to find solutions to the ongoing NHS workforce crisis: 

  • Involve the education sector in long-term NHS workforce planning through a cross-government working group which includes the Department for Education, and through university representation on Integrated Care Boards. 
  • Reform placement tariffs for nursing students: currently NHS trusts receive £5,000 per nursing student they offer placements to, compared with £30,000 for doctors.  
  • Fully embrace simulation in nursing training: the Nursing and Midwifery Council recently announced that 600 hours of nursing student placements could take place in simulated environments. This was a welcome development, and simulated training should now be invested in for the long-term. 
  • Explore a new model for nursing education: nursing students are currently assessed on the number of hours of placements they have completed, with a requirement to complete 2,600 hours, rather than their level of competency. University Alliance recommends exploring a quality over quantity approach to assessment, as is used in the US and Canada. 

University Alliance CEO Vanessa Wilson said: “Alliance universities are delivering innovative nursing training including the use of cutting edge ‘virtual’ clinical placements, taking pressure off NHS trusts and other clinical placement providers in the process.

“The exciting developments in simulated settings alongside regulatory and funding reforms would enable universities to train larger numbers of competent and confident nurses without compromising on quality. 

“Ensuring universities have a seat at the table during national, regional, and local discussions on workforce planning is also crucial to growing the domestic workforce.

“There is huge potential for the higher education sector to scale up its nursing training provision, and, in doing so, alleviate the strain on NHS trusts and other clinical placement providers. University Alliance members stand ready to work with the NHS and the Government to help provide solutions to longstanding issues and to deliver a workforce fit for the future.” 

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