Low take-up leads to call for changes to nursing degree apprenticeship scheme

MPs have called for a shake-up of the nursing degree apprenticeships initiative after a low take-up.

The Commons Education Committee said a more flexible system was needed to boost numbers.

MPs expressed concern that just 30 people began training through the scheme in the 2017-2018 academic year.

The report said there was “no evidence” of how the Department for Education (DfE) will meet the target of 400 nursing associates progressing to degree apprenticeships from 2019.

The report found that universities and employers are currently trying to deal with a “maze of bureaucracy” when trying to deliver degree apprenticeships

The Government announced the creation of nursing degree apprenticeships in 2016.

MPs said changes to the scheme would see better use of the money the NHS contributes to the the apprenticeships levy.

The committee noted that the number of applications for nursing degrees has fallen by a third since the bursary-based system for undergraduate nursing was replaced by a loan system in 2017.

The study expressed particular concern about the drop in the number of applications from mature students.

Committee chairman Robert Halfon said: “The idea that degree apprenticeships are a realistic route into the profession is currently a mirage.

“Ambitious targets are simply not going to be met. There has been a distinct absence of a strategic grasp of the need for nursing degree apprenticeships.

“The Department for Education must act now to tear down the barriers that are preventing the system being used to its full potential and ensure every future nurse has a real choice about their route into the profession.

“The DfE has shown a lack of imagination and foresight and not enough attention has been given to adapting apprenticeships to meet the needs of the NHS.

“A greater requirement for off-the-job training and the safety requirement of apprentices not replacing qualified nurses means there are huge difficulties in the delivery of degree apprenticeships.

“Ministers must now recognise the uniqueness of the health service’s position and allow flexibility in the use of the apprenticeship levy so these apprenticeships can be made to work for both the employer and students.

“While on their own they will not solve the nursing workforce crisis, no-one should be prevented from undertaking a nursing degree apprenticeship due to lack of availability.

“Nursing degree apprenticeships offer an alternative to those put off by the cost of pursuing the full university degree route.

“By removing the road blocks, we can ensure that the NHS can play its part in tackling our economy’s skills shortages, give every student a choice about how they progress and ensure nursing degree apprenticeships are a reality rather than a mirage.”

Apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton said: “Apprenticeships are playing a vital role in helping more people get into training and secure great jobs in the NHS.

“I recently visited Leeds Teaching Hospital where I saw first-hand how apprenticeships have changed people’s lives. We are continuing to work with the health service to make sure the NHS is fully supported to recruit more apprentices.”

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