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Matt Hancock unveils £172m plan to double nursing apprentices in wake of Covid-19

The new fund will be used to boost the number of nursing apprentices (PA)

3 min read

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced a new £172m fund to boost the number of nursing apprentices in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government said the cash would be used to enable the NHS and healthcare firms to take on as many as 2,000 nursing apprentices a year over the next four years.

The fund will provide a further £8,300 per placement to help employers cover the costs of taking on new staff, and comes on top of the salary and tuition costs which are already covered by the apprenticeship programme.

It comes on top of an apprenticeship bonus announced by the government last month which will provide employers in England with £2,000 for each apprentice they take on under the age of 25 and £1,500 for those over 25 until the end of January next year.

Anouncing the fund, Mr Hancock said: "I'm thrilled to see a rising interest in nursing careers, but we must ensure this fantastic career is truly diverse and open to all.

"Nursing apprenticeships allow students to earn as they learn and this new funding will enable healthcare employers to hire thousands more, helping us to deliver 50,000 more nurses by the end of this Parliament."

Meanwhile, apprenticeships minister Gillian Keegan said the new cash would allow new nurses to "kick start" their careers.

She said: "Nursing apprenticeships are a brilliant way to start a truly rewarding career with our fantastic NHS. Nurses are at the heart of our NHS and their care, compassion and support of patients save and transform lives across the country every day.

"This multi-million pound funding boost will help to support thousands of apprentices to gain the skills they need, and earn while they learn.

"Apprenticeships are an excellent way for anyone, regardless of their background, to kick start their career or to progress."

But Sally Warren, director of policy at The King's Fund, said while the funding was welcome it did not go far enough to solve the "chronic shortage" of nurses.

"Action to recruit more nurses is necessary and welcome, and apprenticeships are a good model for attracting more people to the profession," she said. "Yet, despite today's announcement being a positive step, it alone will not solve chronic staff shortages in health and care services."

"Even before the pandemic, the health and care workforce was in a state of crisis, with high levels of work-related stress, reports of overworked staff looking to leave their jobs, and a shortage of around 40,000 nurses.

"It's been 18 months since an NHS workforce strategy was promisesd, but so far we have only seen piecemeal announcements that do not add up to a comprehensive plan.

She added: "Delays to government spending decisions have left the health service without the long term investment and concrete commitments needed to recruit the doctors, nurses and other staff needed to address workforce shortages."

"Today's announcement also leaves some unanswered questions for social care, a sector that went into the Covid-19 pandemic grappling with over 120,000 vancies."

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