Jeremy Hunt to unveil measures to boost numbers of home-grown NHS nurses

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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a 25% increase in nurse training places to boost numbers of home-grown NHS staff as Britain leaves the EU.

The additional 5,000 places will bring the number of undergraduate study opportunities to 25,850 in 2018/19, around 15,000 up from 2015.

Mr Hunt, who was giving his speech to the Conservative conference in Manchester on Tuesday, also announced that an extra 5,500 nursing associates will get training on the job to qualify as full registered nurses via a new apprenticeship path.

The Department of Health said the moves were designed to "reduce the reliance on expensive agency nurses and overseas recruits".

Existing NHS staff will also benefit from new flexible working offer and a right to buy affordable homes developed on surplus NHS land.

"The NHS will be looking after a million more over-75s in just a decade, so we need to jump-start nurse training," said the Health Secretary.

(Peter Byrne/PA)
(Peter Byrne/PA)

"This represents the biggest increase in nurse training places in the history of the NHS and we will make sure that many of the additional places go to healthcare assistants training on hospital sites, allowing us to expand our nurse workforce with some highly experienced people already working on the NHS frontline.

"We will also improve retention rates amongst our current workforce with new flexible working arrangements to be made available to all NHS staff, and a new right of first refusal for affordable housing built on NHS property.

"Combined with the 25% increase in medical school places announced last year, this will transform the ability of our NHS to cope with the pressures ahead."

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Janet Davies said: "Significant increases to training numbers is welcome, we desperately need more nurses. However, they must be educated to the highest standards.

 Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing. (Peter Byrne/PA)
Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing. (Peter Byrne/PA)

"We are concerned at the risk of students plugging the gaps in the current workforce at the expense of quality patient care and their own learning experience."

She warned: "These plans appear too hospital-focused. It is essential nurses of the future have a flexible education which enables them to work in a variety of settings to deliver a 21st century health and care service. We are prepared to work with the Government on meaningful solutions for the education of nurses.

"Greater flexibility for nurses working extra shifts, supported by new technology, should improve their experience and we support this move."