Nursing in Practice March/April 2019 (issue 107) - Page 13

13 Online nursing degree to be established by 2020 What the plan says To make nursing training more accessible, NHS England will establish ‘a new online nursing degree for the NHS, linked to guaranteed placements at NHS trusts and primary care, with the aim of widening participation’. This could be launched in 2020 ‘depending on the speed of regulatory approvals’. And to minimise student debt and incentivise mature applicants, ‘it will be offered for substantially less than the £9,250-a-year cost to current students’. Will it help? A new online degree has the potential to increase the number of people training in nursing – it’s a fl exible, convenient and, crucially, cheaper way of qualifying. Online degree courses, such as those run by the Open University, could be templates for delivering this new course. And in the case of the Open University, the blend of online learning and clinical practice seems to be both effective and safe. However, an online degree course will not solve all nursing recruitment diffi culties. Limits on the number that can enrol are not yet known and, even with clinical placements, it may be diffi cult to reproduce the experience offered by traditional nursing degree courses. There is also the danger that nurses who qualify through the online programme will be perceived as inferior to their university counterparts. And universities may suffer if aspiring nurses opt for cheaper online training. The professionals’ views NHS England spokesperson: ‘The long-term plan sets out a number of specifi c actions to support growth in the nursing workforce. Details of the online degree will be set out by NHS Improvement In the workforce implementation plan and published later in the year.’ Making GP practices work together to form primary care networks What the plan says The plan proposes the £4.5bn of new investment will fund expanded community multidisciplinary teams in new primary care networks, in which neighbouring GP practices work together, typically covering 30-50,000 people. Neighbourhood teams will comprise a range of staff including district nurses. The plan points out that in many parts of the country, functions such as district nursing are already confi gured on network footprints and this will now become the norm. The aim is to create fully integrated community-based healthcare, supported through training and development in primary and community hubs. Will it help? The evidence is confl icting. A recent study shows that larger practices don’t save money, partly because it costs more to manage them. However, NHS England recently announced that a primary care network in Luton was saving thousands Dr Geraldine Walters, director of education and standards at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which will have to approve any online degree course: ‘The NMC is committed to supporting innovative ways of teaching and learning that give students the knowledge and skills to meet our standards, alongside a rich learning experience. ‘While models of fl exible and blended learning for nursing already exist, we look forward to exploring new developments for nursing degrees with the Government and education institutions, as well as our partners in the health and care sector in the coming months.’ Dame Donna Kinnair, Royal College of Nursing acting chief executive: ‘As the Prime Minister outlined in her speech on the plan, the NHS’s biggest asset is its staff. So it is strange that this plan offers no money for nurses to develop the specialties and skills patients need. And it is equally worrying that online courses are presented as a magic bullet to solve the workforce crisis. Nursing degrees demand both academic and practical skills, which student nurses learn from contact with professionals and peers, a model not easily replicated online, even with clinical placements.’ Julie Messenger, senior lecturer in nursing at the Open University, which delivers one of the country’s only online nursing degrees: ‘Delivering nursing degrees with an online element alongside clinical practice can widen access to study – particularly for healthcare staff already in work or others who would fi nd it harder to train through a traditional campus-based route. ‘An online blended approach could certainly increase the volume of students. But there might be problems matching students with appropriate clinical placements, and fi nding suitably qualifi ed practitioners to supervise and assess them. ‘In our experience, the blended model works very well where you have online, largely academic learning supported by local practice placements where safe clinical skills can be taught and practised in real work environments under appropriate supervision. ‘Employers like it too as it means they can develop their own nurses and keep skills local, helping signifi cantly with retention issues – which is a key challenge in rural areas and high-cost locations such as London’. of pounds on appointments. More evidence is needed. And training and development of multidisciplinary teams, including practice nurses, will be essential to make this scheme work. The recent announcement from the British Medical Association that any sharp rises in infl ation could see practice staff funding cut means plans could change. The professionals’ views Julie Roye, advanced nurse practitioner at Oakview Family Practice in south London: ‘The move to integrated community-based healthcare is an opportunity to pull together treatments for patients that need a range of disciplines in primary and community health. It can enable a more effi cient way of working that will bring consistency for the patients. For practice nurses, I think it will increase opportunities and development. I hope it will provide more improvements in standardised policies and wages, promote team working, add more skills and resources and help manage the workload better. ‘I am excited about these changes. I think there are many benefi ts for practices and patients. I believe it will enable early diagnosis of chronic diseases, preventing illness, reducing hospital admission and improving chronic conditions. Where practices come together in partnership, they will be able to support each other. This will make more services available to patients across wider disciplines. This kind of joint planning will improve the community and health system.’ Nursing degrees are a model that is not easily replicated online, even with clinical placement Dame Donna Kinnair I am excited about the changes – I think there are many benefi ts for practices and patients March/April 2019