Our beloved National Health Service (The NHS) has found itself under huge pressure to continually deliver the high standard of care expected. This is due, in part, to the lack of people being attracted to the profession. 2017 saw a 23% reduction in the number of people applying to nursing courses. This could be put down to numerous factors, but the most apparent reason is the government's decision to cut nursing bursaries which allowed students studying nursing qualifications to get a free university education. Although the return of nursing bursaries would be welcomed by many, if that is not the case a plan to replace the nursing bursary with a system that can still train enough people to go into the health profession needs to be devised. It is time to develop a modernised 21st century approach to health education.
One possible solution is creating a nursing pathway from GCSE level allowing students to get an understanding of the nursing profession through a qualification, whereby core subjects such as Maths and English would have to be studied. The next step in this journey would be for the student to decide whether they want to go on to work in frontline services or management. A diploma course would be in place for those who want to work in frontline services with the option to specialise in a certain area of health such as mental health, midwifery, general or children's nursing. This would then lead to direct employment in a hospital environment with further ongoing assessment in their practical caring ability and skills.
Those students who want to move into senior clinical posts or want to develop more advance clinical nursing skills would be able to continue to do their A levels, focused on health-related issues and incorporating practical placements in health. This will allow those students also to have the opportunity to progress into health service management and cover aspects of commissioning health services on newly designed health degree courses. This modernised approach could help deliver the following:
• Train a new generation of nursing and health management professionals in the NHS
• It could help educate young people from an early age on mental health and physical health.
• Allow a less stringent education system providing a new pathway for young people to train and get onto the job ladder.
• It could play a vital role in keeping the NHS running after Brexit. With a 90% fall in those from the European Union applying to nursing courses in our country this could help stem the short fall.
• It could help in increasing life-chances for the next generation by helping provide a level of social and economic mobility.
This approach is about giving a different route for young people who want to go into the health profession whether it is to support our elderly, support those who suffer from mental health problems, support those who suffer from physical ailments or provide the leadership to move our NHS forward this approach could help.
Whichever political party you support I encourage you to back this approach which could help not only provide social and economic mobility for more people in the future but could play a vital role in maintaining the NHS for this generation and the next.