Last updated: 03.04.13

Would-be nurses face extra healthcare training

Student nurses now face a year of training as a healthcare assistant before they are able to become fully-qualified.

In response to the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal that saw between 400 and 1,200 patients die as a result of poor care, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced individuals who want to become nurses need to undergo the relevant hands-on experience to inspire confidence they have the right skills and qualities for the profession.

This is because a report based on the findings of Robert Francis QC showed there had been "appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people" at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009.

According to Mr Hunt, frontline practical experience and values need to be equal with academic training, so would-be nurses will need to start their careers by spending 12 months taking care of patients' basic needs such as getting out of bed, being washed and eating.

The health secretary also said the measures unveiled by the government are about "recruiting all staff with the right values and giving them the training they need to do their job properly, so that patients are treated with compassion".

Under the new policies, students looking for NHS funding for nursing degrees will have to become healthcare assistants or support workers as part of their degree or as a prerequisite for receiving financial support.

Sources from the Department of Health have claimed the changes will be piloted before becoming routine in England and if successful, they could be extended beyond nursing to include the introduction of minimum training standards and a code of conduct for healthcare workers.

Mr Hunt's changes are in accordance with a suggestion made in the Francis report that stated there should be a national entry level requirement that means student nurses have to spend a minimum of three months working directly with patients under the supervision of a registered nurse.

"Satisfactory completion of this direct care experience should be a pre-condition to continuation in nurse training," the document was quoted by the Guardian as advising.