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Student nurses will suffer in NHS funding shake-up

Nursing-NSTUDENTS hoping to train in nursing  in Britain, including scores of Irish men and women,  will be forced to work for 12  months as a healthcare assistant before  qualifying for course funding under proposals  for an NHS shake-up. 

Nurses already working in NHS hospitals  across the country will also have to  prove they are ‘fit to practice’ under the  new terms outlined by Health Minister  Jeremy Hunt.

The moves follow recommendations  made in the Francis Report into the Mid  Staffordshire NHS Trust hospital scandal,  which revealed up to 1,200 people  died at Stafford Hospital as a result of  poor care.

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Mr Hunt has revealed a long list of  reforms to the health service which he  hopes will transform the NHS by putting  ‘compassion and patient care’ at its core.

The most controversial of the Minister’s  new measures will require all student  nurses to spend a year as healthcare  assistants, helping patients eat, wash and  get dressed, before they qualify for Government  funding to undertake their nursing studies.

This measure will apply to scores of Irish men and women who come  to Britain to train as nurses each year.

Those who refuse to undertake the  hands-on work will be denied NHS funding  for their degree, which is worth  roughly £40,000 over three years and is  awarded to almost all of the 20,000 student  nurses enrolled on courses each  year.

Following the announcement HR officers  at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading initially worried that the proposals  would impact their policy of recruiting  nurses directly from Ireland.

“Irish nurses are well trained and highly  professional and, very importantly,  popular with our patients,” a spokesperson for the hospital told The  Irish Post, adding  “Since the start of this year alone we  have recruited 76 nursing staff from Ireland.”

The HR team has since been reassured that their recruitment policy will remain unaffected. They have also been assured student  nurses from Ireland, like their  British counterparts, can apply for financial  support under the new proposals  once they complete the 12month healthcare  assistant placement.

The move, which is subject to pilot  schemes, will bring British nursing  courses closer to their equivalents in Ireland,  where students must complete a 36-week clinical placement during their  training.

Mr Hunt claims the practical experience  will ensure ‘all staff recruited by the  NHS have the right values and understand  their role’.

He added: “Spending a year doing lowskill  work on wards will give them the training they need to do their job properly, so that patients are treated with compassion”.

Anne Speed from Unison, Britain’s  largest trade union for public service  workers, claims there is no evidence that  the hands-on work will boost nursing  standards.

“12 months of work as healthcare assistants  sounds an awful lot like the Government  wants trainee nurses working on  low pay,” she said.  The union believes the move could also put the jobs of healthcare assistants in  jeopardy.

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Niall O Sullivan
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Niall O’Sullivan is a reporter at The Irish Post. You can follow him on @Niall_IrishPost on Twitter

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