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Leicester’s Hospitals looks innovatively at tackling its nurse vacancy challenge
Press release date06/10/2017
There has recently been some media interest about nursing vacancies within our hospitals and some of this has been misconstrued and incorrect. With every NHS Trust struggling to recruit to their nurse vacancies, our nursing team, led by our Chief Nurse Julie Smith has begun to look at how we might provide the best care to our patients, and are calling this work “Tomorrow’s Ward”.
Press release

Julie Smith, Chief Nurse at Leicester’s Hospitals said: “It is no secret that it is a challenge to recruit to our registered nursing vacancies, and this is not unique to our Trust.  We currently have around 500 nurse vacancies and we know that we will not be able to fill all those roles despite best efforts and with 120 newly qualified nurses joining us during October and November.  This is principally because there are more nurses leaving the NMC register than joining, and the NHS will experience the impact of retirement over the next five years with the potential of around 38,000 nurses leaving the profession.”

“Recruiting registered nurses from the EU is no longer as easy as it was.  At the peak we had around 440 EU nurses and only 207 of them remain with us; with only 17 joining us in so far during 2017.  We continue to recruit within the UK and have also had success recently in India and the Philippines where we have identified 200 good and experienced nurses who want to come and work for us, but the process to get them here is particularly lengthy and challenging with the ILETS level 7, which is proving very difficult for them to achieve.”

“We cannot in the short term rely on being able to recruit the number so of registered nurses we need so we cannot keep doing what we have always done.  We have to make sure patients get the right care by the right staff.  Our “Tomorrow’s Ward” concept is being designed to examine the needs of patients ward by ward, to see which roles, including other allied health professions such as pharmacists and therapists, are needed to deliver safe, high quality care for our patients.  Some of our registered nurses are doing tasks they don’t need to do, like cleaning bed spaces and giving out drinks, things other people can be trained to do.”

“To be clear, this is not an exercise to save costs and we will not undermine the need for registered nurses on our wards, but there just are not enough registered nurses and every Trust is finding this a challenge.  We have no intention of reducing the overall number of registered nurses in our organisation.”

“We were pleased that Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland were successfully awarded the opportunity to become one of 35 test sites for the trainee nursing associate, selected by Health Education England (HEE) who were tasked with the responsibility for implementing this role.  Our Nursing Associate trainees are aware that they are part of a pilot and that the role will, inevitably, attract scrutiny, however they are professionals who understand and acknowledge their own scope of practice and we will look to create a supportive place for them within our workforce because of the benefits they can bring our patients.  Our trainees know that they will be part of a dynamic team around the patient to support the role of the Registered Nurse, not to compete against it.”



Background information on the Nursing Associate Role in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland:  Responding to the recommendation by Lord Willis in the ‘Shape of Caring Review’, the Government announced their plan to create a new nursing support role in December 2015. Health Education England (HEE) were tasked with the responsibility for implementing this role and identified pilot sites across the country to take this forward with the aim of creating a new type of care worker with a higher skill-set to work alongside care assistants and registered nurses to deliver hands-on care, with the ‘compassion to care and capability to treat’. Nursing associates will support, not replace, registered nurses, but the introduction of this new role has the potential to transform the nursing and care workforce - with clear entry and career progression points.

There are 35 test sites across England delivering training to 2,000 trainee nursing associates and their training will begin early this year. The first nursing associates to complete their training and start work in early 2019. The East Midlands collaborative were successfully awarded the opportunity to become a test site within Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. We are very proud to have our own School of Nursing Associates where the FDSc Nursing Associate has been developed, which is being led and delivered by Clinical Practice Educators from Leicester’s Hospitals and partner organisations. 

This is a unique programme shaped and driven by practice whose current and contemporary knowledge of issues, challenges and patient care is ensuring that the role is being developed and embedded as a valued member of the nursing team. The programme is delivered on site, within Leicester’s Hospitals, at a Multi-Professional facility which supports the education of nurses and other health care professionals, enabling our Trainees to feel part of a team around the patient.

We are incredibly proud of what the trainees have achieved and how they are developing their own identity as an integral part of that team; they have had incredible feedback from Supervisors in practice and are working hard to ensure that they meet the standards that will be expected by the NMC as a regulating body. The module team have one eye on the future whilst ensuring that the course is meeting current framework requirements and that quality and safe patient care is central to all we do.

We have 48 trainees on the programme from a variety of healthcare organisations, Leicester’s Hospitals, Leicestershire Partnership Trust, GP Practices, LOROS and The Nuffield Hospital. 

The Leicestershire Nursing Associate programme has been developed and is being delivered by ourselves in partnership with De Montfort University.  It has been approved as a Foundation Degree in Science at a formal validation event at the Leicestershire School of Nursing Associates. This is excellent news for us and our health partners and is truly practice-led programme which is unique and the only one of its kind in England.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC):  The NMC are working closely with Health Education England (HEE), the body responsible for training healthcare staff in England, who are responsible for the Nursing Associate test sites. Now that the NMC has agreed to regulate nursing associates we are preparing to set our own regulatory standards and framework for education. At the moment there are no plans for further HEE-funded pilots of nursing associate programmes. The next opportunity to be involved in the new role will most likely be via an apprenticeship route. Work on this is starting this spring 2018.

The nursing associate is a new member of the nursing family and we recognise the benefits of the NMC (the regulator of nurses) regulating this role. There has been strong external support for the NMC to be the regulator and as an organisation we are well-equipped to take on this role.

The NMC will continue to work closely with stakeholders, including the Department of Health and Health Education England, to ensure the successful development and implementation of this new role.

The NMC will be responsible for professional regulation of nursing associates. It will fall to employers and system regulators to ensure that the role is deployed safely and effectively.

Contact information:
Contact information
Tiffany Jones
Deputy Director of Communications & Engagement
0116 258 8963
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