A group of 28 individuals from across London came together to have an in depth discussion about the multiple routes potential nurses can choose for pre-registration programmes, and the challenges higher education providers face in promoting, recruiting and delivering these programmes.

To open the session Warren Turner, chair of the Healthcare Education Group, invited all attendees to introduce themselves, and then delivered an introduction of the current landscape and the potential impact of changes due to the new NMC standards announced in summer 2018.

Opening up a panel session we next heard from Sam Donohue of HEE, Selina Trueman of CapitalNurse, Debbie Dzik-Jurasz from Barts NHS Trust, and three wonderful nursing students. There was support from the panel for nursing apprenticeships and nursing associates as an opportunity to promote flexible learning, and enable more candidates to start nursing training. An interesting fact was nursing apprenticeships receive the highest hit rate on the Health Careers website.

Some key themes to emerge from the panel session was the confusion felt within the sector and by students about the variety of routes and roles, and the need for clarity to stop the risk of deterring potential applicants. Suggestions to achieve this included improved signposting for students on what route may suit their personal circumstances best. The need for parity between the different routes was emphasised. Also, costing the end-to-end routes to assist in conversations with trusts was discussed.

CapitalNurse is focusing on advertising London as a desirable place to be a nurse as well as encouraging people to join the profession and working on clarifying the training routes. Barts NHS Trust hosts a high number of nursing students, and is closely monitoring attrition following the removal of the bursary. They are keen to integrate different opportunities and shake up workforce models while ensuring there is no negative impact on quality of care provided.

The three nursing students spoke to their passion and the resilience needed during their training, and discussed some practical things universities could do that could help other students. This led to discussions about students feeling as though they were ‘paying to train’ following the end of bursaries and the move to a fee-based system, and generational difference reflected in attitudes that student nurses needed to ‘earn their stripes’. Also, there were concerns that not affording student nurses the same degree of flexibility on placements as that afforded to members of staff can have negative impacts, particularly on students with caring responsibilities. There were also issues for student nurses struggling to find part time work that could fit around their schedule. A response from an LSBU partner was to enrol students on bank for back office shifts, there was a higher retention of those students who registered. The importance of having a mentor who can support and offer advice was highlighted by some students.

One discussion point was around the lure of private work after completing training in the NHS. There were conflicted views around this, as while there is investment by NHS in training nurses if individuals leave to work in private care homes they are fostering links keeping people well and out of hospital, as well as learning other skills. Also, it is possible that a number of these nurses will return to NHS work at a later stage of their career.

After a detailed and thoughtful discussion the group moved on to table sessions, covering topics such as relationships with providers, procurement, vulnerable subjects and recruitment, overseas recruitment, placements, and course practicalities.

Finally the attendees had the opportunity to creatively feedback their key messages from the day via a poster. This was a successful day and we would like to thank all who attended for their insight and contributions.