No To Nurse Apprentices!

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Student nurses and midwives campaigning against the ending of bursaries – now they are to be saddled with £51,600 of fee debt
Student nurses and midwives campaigning against the ending of bursaries – now they are to be saddled with £51,600 of fee debt

TORY Health Secretary Hunt’s announ-cement yesterday that there are to be 1,000 nurse apprentices in hospitals was condemned by health professionals and unions yesterday.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said of the apprentice nurses plan: ‘This is another example of the Tory government trying to squeeze cheap labour out of the NHS – just like the so-called 24-hour service which led junior doctors to strike. And untrained staff, when it comes to the NHS, essentially means unsafe staff. GMB members deserve to be properly trained and paid for the vital work they do.’

Responding to Hunt’s statement that his ‘apprentice nurses’ announcement ‘complements the nursing associate role announced a year ago’, BMA member Anna Athow warned: ‘They are trying to dilute the proportion of state registered nurses on the wards and replace them with various forms of less-trained and lower paid labour.

‘Whether it be nursing associates or these new apprentices, this is absolutely to do with reducing the pay bill. Every single trust and every single clinical commissioning group and every single STP board has been given a financial control total which they must not exceed by the end of the financial year.

‘And the main way of cutting costs in the health service is to downband staff and actually cut the number of staff. Studies have shown that where you reduce proportions of srns, it leads to increased morbidity and mortality of patients. The trade unions must oppose this degradation of skill mix with action.’

Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: ‘Nursing degree apprentices need to be properly paid and supported. They need to balance studying for a degree with the pressures of work. And nursing associates shouldn’t be a substitute for registered nurses. Jeremy Hunt risks diluting the vital work of nurses in providing compassionate and dignified care to patients.’  

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said: ‘Nursing has progressed over many years. We must be careful to learn from the lessons of the past when student nurses were often seen as nursing on the cheap.’

The British Medical Journal’s latest issue warned: ‘Replacing professionally qualified nurses with lower skilled nursing assistants is linked to a raised risk of patient death and other indicators of poor quality care, a large European study showed in BMJ Quality and Safety.

‘In every 25 patients just one professional nurse substitution was associated with 21% higher odds of dying in a hospital with an average nurse staffing level and skill mix, the findings showed, prompting researchers to conclude that “diluting” the hospital nurse skill mix “is not in the public interest”.’

• Responding to the GMC’s 2016 national training survey, Dr Pete Campbell, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said: ‘We cannot accept a situation where vital training time is being sacrificed in the face of rising pressures on services. This is a short-sighted approach that is already having an impact on the quality of patient care.

‘We need to maintain a highly trained medical workforce if the NHS is to continue to deliver a world class service for patients, and protecting and valuing training time is absolutely vital to achieving this.’