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Nursing degree apprenticeships as a successful and sustainable route into the profession will forever be a mirage unless barriers to delivery are torn down, MPs have warned.
A report by the Education Committee warns that the uptake of nursing degree apprenticeships has been far too slow with no more than 30 starters beginning training through the scheme last year. The Committee argues there is no evidence of how the Department for Education intends to meet the target of 400 nursing associates progressing to degree apprenticeships from 2019. It also notes 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, and says it is particularly concerned by a fall in the number of applications from mature students.
The report finds universities and employers are currently trying to navigate a 'maze of bureaucracy' when trying to deliver degree apprenticeships, and it calls for much greater flexibility in the system and the use of the apprenticeships levy.
Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Committee, 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 Department for Education 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, he added. 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, he said.
"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."
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