The NHS workforce plan is huge news for the FE sector

The NHS workforce plan is a fantastic opportunity for further education colleges and training providers to deliver even more apprenticeships, writes Robert Halfon

The NHS workforce plan is a fantastic opportunity for further education colleges and training providers to deliver even more apprenticeships, writes Robert Halfon

30 Jun 2023, 17:39

Today, NHS England has launched the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.  

This is a historic moment, not just for our health service and for meeting the nation’s need for more skilled health workers, but also for colleges and vocational education.  

The plan puts apprenticeships and skills training at the heart of the NHS’s workforce strategy, and this is great news for further education colleges and training providers.  

In the 75th anniversary year of the NHS, we have announced plans for an unprecedented expansion in the training of doctors, nurses, dentists and other healthcare staff. This will help cut waiting times, clear the backlog, and boost standards of care nationwide.  

We have a shortfall of 112,000 workers in the NHS but we have a plan to fill these gaps by training new staff.  

Backed by over £2.4 billion of funding for the next five years, this represents a significant, long-term investment from the government.  

While we have seen significant growth in NHS nursing apprenticeships in recent years, with nearly 3,000 in 2021/22, just 7 per cent of clinical staff currently train through apprenticeships. We are ramping this up across the NHS, enabling students to earn a wage whilst training and getting vital on-the-job experience.  

By 2030, one in six NHS staff will be recruited by the apprenticeship route, a significant increase which will be good for learners, good for the sector, and good for all our healthcare needs.  

Nursing and midwifery training places will nearly double under our plan, with more than 24,000 additional places growing by 34 per cent to 40,000 a year.  

The first medical doctor apprentices will be starting their courses in September 2024, backed by government funding. By 2036/37, almost 2,000 doctors a year will enter the profession via an apprenticeship. 

With doctors now able to learn their trade as an apprentice rather than via a university degree, this means more practical, on-the-job training for many of the next generation of top medics, and also greater esteem for further education. 

This substantial investment in training the future NHS workforce is a fantastic opportunity for colleges and independent training providers.

The FE sector is already training thousands of apprentices in core healthcare roles such as dental nurse, healthcare support worker, pharmacy technician and pharmacy services assistant.

In future I want that to be many thousands more across an even wider range of apprenticeships. 

I’ve often said that “degree” and “apprenticeship” are my two favourite words in the English language. There is now a wide range of medical and healthcare degree apprenticeships offering a ladder of opportunity to people who might not otherwise have been able to access these professions and gain a degree.  

We are revolutionising the way that the NHS recruits and trains staff, and that is huge news for further education. The £40m that we are making available via the Office for Students over the next two years provides a fantastic opportunity for eligible colleges and providers to expand degree apprenticeships and contribute to this transformation of the NHS workforce.  

We are also backing Higher Technical Qualifications in healthcare roles such as nursing associate and assistant practitioner. A range of courses are starting in September backed by up to £48 million of government funding.  

You all know that we continue to roll out T Levels as the new gold standard in technical education. Over 10,000 new students started T Levels in 2022, students who will benefit from an up-to-date curriculum designed with employers and a 45-day industry placement.  

The health & science T Level is supporting the NHS with an expanded talent pipeline of young people getting a valued qualification delivered by our brilliant colleges.  

This plan is a win-win, boosting our medical training, ensuring a pipeline of quality healthcare qualifications and apprenticeship options for the thousands of people who want a ladder of opportunity to a career in healthcare.

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