Next steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View: England’s Chief Nurse announces ‘Nurse First’ to attract the best and brightest graduates to nursing

Chief Nursing Officer for England, Professor Jane Cummings, has today announced a new fast track ‘Nurse First’ programme to attract high achieving graduates into a career in nursing.

The NHS in 2020 will be treating increasing numbers of people and caring for an ageing population with more complex needs and so attracting and keeping staff will become even more important.

The NHS Five Year Forward View Next Steps plan sets out how we will recruit and train the workforce needed to meet the challenges ahead.

The Nurse First programme will create a new postgraduate programme that will fast track high achievers to registered graduate nursing positions, inspired by the Teach First programme.

With the first trainees due to begin their studies in September, it will help address workforce capacity and support the development of future nurse leaders in key areas, targeting mental health and learning disabilities in the first instance.

Successful applicants will attend an educational course as well as receive hands on experience and training within the NHS. Ambitious and committed individuals will then be given the opportunity to enter a development scheme to rapidly progress their careers to leadership posts within 5-7 years.

Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “More people are training to join the NHS every year and we remain on target in terms of overall recruitment although there are still gaps in our nursing workforce. As frontline staff and services continue to face pressures from rising demand and more complex care, we know our workforce must continue to grow and adapt if it is to delivering diverse, high quality care to more patients than ever before.

“As a profession, nursing has always greatly benefited from the varied backgrounds and life experience of its staff. It’s vital we continue to attract the best and brightest graduates, offering additional entry routes and career opportunities, so that we can continue to deliver specialist, high quality care to all.”

Claire Murdoch, National Director for Mental Health at NHS England, said: “As a registered mental health nurse myself, I am delighted to see that the Nurse First programme will provide more specialist mental health and learning disability nurses.

They offer some of most challenging but highly rewarding roles and provide crucial care and support to some of our most vulnerable.”

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “There is a critical shortage of nurses in the NHS and unsafe staffing levels put high quality patient care at risk. Measures to increase the number of registered nurses are very welcome and the ‘Nurse First’ initiative is a positive way to attract talented graduates. Nursing is a hugely rewarding, complex and responsible profession.

“It is crucial to focus on retaining nurses who are deciding to leave and offer flexible employment to encourage people to return to nursing in the NHS.

“Advanced Clinical Practice nurses play a vital role and the RCN has begun rolling out a credentialing programme to ensure that clinicians have the right education and skills to deliver advanced care to the public. We look forward to supporting the new ACP framework with our work.“

Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Director of Nursing & Deputy Director of Education and Quality, Health Education England, said: “I am delighted that HEE will lead work with NHS England and other partners nationally and locally to pilot ‘Nurse First’. This exciting programme builds on HEE’s Shape of Caring Review.

“It will form part of the wider nurse education reforms to ensure that registered nurses of the future are educated and trained to the highest possible standards in order to meet the needs of patients and local populations with growing complex needs.

“Nursing is a brilliant rewarding career and I am passionate about creating new and innovative recruitment approaches that appeal to the widest possible group of potential recruits building on previous programmes like Nursing Associates, apprenticeships and return to practice.”

As part of the drive to ensure the NHS has the nursing and midwifery workforce to meet the demands of our future population, the NHS will also focus on:

  • Education and training – The number of newly qualified nurses available to be employed will increase by up to 2,200 more per year in 2019, as a result of expansion in nurse training places commissioned by HEE between 2013 and 2016.
  • Retention – Improving the number of nurses staying in the profession to the level of two years ago would mean around 4,000 more nurses per year. A new nurse retention collaborative run by NHS Improvement and NHS Employers will support 30 trusts with the highest turnover.
  • Return to practice – There are over 50,000 registered nurses in England not currently working for the NHS. It takes three years and £50-70,000 to train a nurse, but only £2000 and three to twelve months to retrain a returning nurse. A further 1500-2000 nurses will be supported to return to work over the next two years.
  • General Practice nursing – A ten point plan for General Practice Nurses (GPNs) will be published in April that will support these nurses to further demonstrate their leadership and value in primary care. The actions will include improving recruitment and retention, return to practice opportunities and new advanced roles, as well as access to a programme of support and development. The £15m investment for GPNs identified in the General Practice Forward View will be aligned to this ten point plan.
  • The profile and image of nursing. Nurses and midwives are the largest profession in this country with the largest reach. There is a wealth of competency, skill, experience and dedication but we need to work to consistently harness this talent to keep it alive and energised. The CNO will work with the wider system to champion a programme that brings together existing and future work actions that promote the image and pride in the nursing and midwifery professions.