Nurse Training

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2009 Health Care Service Group Conference
17 April 2009

Conference reaffirms previous UNISON commitment to:

·Ensure that the commissioning of nurse training numbers is based upon proper evaluation of workforce needs and planned for appropriately.

·Not exploit developing country’s labour markets in recruiting nurses to work in the UK.

·Support widening access initiatives towards the opening up of Higher Education to diverse students from all backgrounds

·Ensure that the profession reflects the diversity of society it seeks to care for

·End student poverty

There is a real danger that the development of a policy that restricts nurse training to those enrolled on under-graduate courses only, could have a longer term negative impact for the nursing workforce and colleagues employed in the Higher Education sector.

A consequence of this in time is likely to be many fewer nurses in training than current levels on mixed Diploma and Degree courses. A reduction in the number of commissioned places will have a negative impact on colleagues within Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) which could lead to job cuts in lecturers and other academic staff at a time when we should be valuing and retaining them in post. It takes a huge amount of time and investment in an individual’s career for them to progress in to HEI as a staff member, this investment cannot be lost to the NHS or public sector.

This will also have an impact on the future shape and skill-mix in teams. Some NHS Trusts have already started to review their registered nurse work force which has led to a reduction. Nurses do not want a future of the profession where they will simply be expected to ‘supervise’ the work of unregistered and lower paid colleagues; undertaking work previously undertaken by registered nurses. Whilst we can always learn from international colleagues we do not want an American nurse culture in the UK, time after time surveys of UK nurses state that the greatest job satisfaction they have is in the direct care they give to patients we must not lose the value of the profession.

This situation can also only be exacerbated by economic downturn and any squeeze on public spending. Competition between universities for dwindling student numbers could result in the closure of schools of nursing and redundancies of teaching staff. This is at a time when there is an acknowledged need for more nurses and research shows that greater numbers of registered nurses in teams results in better patient outcomes.

UNISON wants nurses to be the best that they can be at whatever level they practise, whilst we are aware that the Nursing & Midwifery Council has taken a decision to move to an all graduate profession there are many steps and issues still to be resolved in this transition. We have to engage with the profession not just the decision makers in this process, to ensure that we have their support for any steps taken.

This conference is convinced that the proposal to make nurse training degree only will lead to:

·An elitist attitude amongst many newly qualified nurses

·A reduction in applicants to nurse training

·A fall in the diversity amongst trainee nurses.

Conference calls on the SGE to:

1.Seek an agreed exit point for student nurses who do not obtain the degree level qualification at registration prior to its introduction. No one should leave with no recognition; it’s counter to our philosophy of life long learning and will be a complete waste of public money;

2.Alert the government, relevant agencies, and commissioners of student nurse training to our concerns regarding potential perverse consequences of a shift to all-graduate nursing;

3.Assertively resist attempts to dilute nursing skill-mix away from safe levels of registered nurses, including marshalling the arguments and evidence in favour of higher levels of registered nurses within teams;

4.To work with UNISON’s Higher Education Sector to defend the jobs of nurses and nurse educators working in higher education and argue against the deleterious effects on widening access programmes resulting from cessation of Diploma level training;

5.Raise our concerns with the Council of Deans and seek urgent on going discussions to monitor the situation jointly raising awareness when necessary.