With more than 40,000 vacant nursing posts in England alone, the need to recruit, retain and train nurses is paramount to the future of our healthcare system.
The NHS’s workforce plan to expand its recruitment of nurses through apprenticeships, announced earlier this year, is welcome.
“Ultimately, we do not believe the NHS is solely responsible for fixing the workforce crisis”
We’d argue that the independent sector has a fundamental role to play in supporting the NHS to address the shortage of skilled professionals, not just in nursing, but across all clinical roles.
Particularly at a time of record waiting lists, the NHS and independent sector should be viewed as one integrated, unified healthcare system, working together for the benefit of patients and the UK as a whole.
Rather than being seen as a drain on the NHS workforce, the independent sector has a duty to boost and maintain it, by training new recruits and enabling them to work for the NHS should they wish upon becoming qualified.
In fact, a number of our nurse graduates transferred or returned to the NHS in 2022. This is no bad thing, as ultimately a robust NHS supports our sector and strengthens our healthcare system.
In many parts of the UK, we and other independent providers are utilised to support the NHS to offer patient care, whether diagnostics or specific surgical operations or treatments.
More on the NHS workforce plan
Why should recruitment and training for much needed nurses be viewed any differently?
While the sector association, the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, will shortly publish an evaluation of apprenticeship schemes across the sector, we at Spire Healthcare launched a national nurse degree programme back in 2021.
In partnership with the University of Sunderland, it was the largest scheme launched by a single UK healthcare provider at the time.
The great thing about any form of apprenticeship is the flexibility and accessibility it provides students.
The apprenticeship programmes at Spire provide applicants with the opportunity to train while earning a salary, and guaranteed job at the end.
The programme includes a mix of remote based learning with a high-quality university, along with on-the-job training across a variety of different placements, allowing students to experience hospital care through to community care, both with us at Spire and for the NHS.
The programme has been popular with adults who already work in healthcare but wish to upskill, along with those who fancy a complete career change.
We believe this demographic is a real untapped resource our healthcare system could highly benefit from.
Earlier this month we opened applications to receive another 25 nurse degree apprentices, on top of the 160 currently enrolled.
Work is also underway to expand Spire’s nursing family even further by creating nurse associate roles.
Ultimately, we do not believe the NHS is solely responsible for fixing the workforce crisis. It is a sector issue and we all must play our part.
Professor Lisa Grant is group clinical director and chief nurse at Spire Healthcare