The Works and Pensions Select Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into jobs. There are three main issues.: shortages in key areas affecting growth and outcomes, too few people with the right skills, and deprivation which limits opportunity.
Our inquiry is considering how other countries are dealing with these problems. One of our biggest concerns is the shortage and future shortfall of nurses and other NHS staff.
Labour has rightly identified training more doctors and nurses as a key priority and will pay for it by taxing non-doms, rich people who enjoy the benefits of living in our country but avoid paying tax. However, the inquiry has led me to conclude that, vital though that is, it won’t be enough.
In the USA, which has quite a different health and care system, they are experiencing remarkably similar problems over recruitment and retention of nurses. President Biden’s administration is embarking on an ambitious apprenticeship scheme to encourage new nurses. They’ll be paid apprentices from day one, so no loans and no debt, such a deterrent to those from poorer backgrounds, especially after our government scrapped bursaries for student nurses. There aren’t enough training places for the number of nurses needed. The Americans plan to tackle that by recruiting experienced nurses as trainers and mentors, which also addresses retention issues caused by experienced nurses leaving the profession through excessive pressure and lack of job satisfaction.
It’s an obvious way to encourage new recruits and reduce prohibitive entry requirements. Like other apprenticeships, it will largely consist of on-the-job training, often thought to be lacking in current programmes. It’s a wonderful opportunity to increase the number of nurses in our hospitals. No doubt we’ll hear some opposition or claims that there’s already an apprenticeship route, but I’m talking about something much bigger and a programme that’s much more accessible. I want a modern version of the old pupil nurse route.
We need to make it easier for people, especially those from disadvantaged areas, to enter the profession. We need a modern health service but, like matrons, we need apprentice/pupil nurses as part of that modern NHS.