Pre-Nursing Experience – Pilots Recruit Aspirant Nurses to get Caring Experience

Up to 200 aspirant nurses will be recruited in care settings in six areas across England to get real, paid caring experience for up to year as a Healthcare Assistant before they apply to take up an NHS-funded degree course.

Earlier this year, the government, in its response to the Francis Inquiry into the failings at Mid Staffordshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, asked Health Education England (HEE) to work with partners across the NHS and higher education to pilot a scheme whereby aspirant student nurses spend up to a year on the frontline prior to receiving NHS funding for their degree.

In his Inquiry, Robert Francis called for an increased focus in nurse training and education on the practical requirements of delivering compassionate care and evidence of the appropriate values, attitudes and behaviours.

The pilots will explore the most appropriate timescale for the scheme, and will be evaluated for the ability to test for values and behaviours and reductions in attrition rates.

Health Education England has confirmed that pilots will take place in a range of NHS/care settings in six of its thirteen Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs). These are:

  • East of England
  • East Midlands
  • North Central and East London
  • North East
  • North West
  • West Midlands

Participants in the pilot will:

  • Be a pioneer in a new learning opportunity for people who want to go to university to train as a nurse
  • Get paid to gain vital experience of caring for patients on the front line of the NHS
  • Find out whether a caring career really is right for them so they can make the right choice
  • Have support in their application for university to train as a nurse
  • Part of a drive to widen participation in the NHS and encourage people from a wide variety background, no previous care experience necessary to apply.

Recruitment for the first cohort begins during August 2013, with the pilots starting in September. The successful individuals will work as healthcare assistants in a range of care settings expected to include hospitals, GP practices and health centres and mental health units.

HEE seeks to embed the missions and values of the new NHS Constitution in the recruitment and education and training of staff working in health and healthcare.

Dr Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Director of Nursing at HEE, said:

“We were pleased with the level of interest we received from partners wanting to be involved in the pilots. The areas will be looking to recruit people who aspire to be a nurse, but have no or little experience of caring.

We have had a good response to the adverts in the West Midlands and North West which is an encouraging start.

It is important for aspirant nurses to get a feel of what is required of nursing and to provide compassionate care for individuals who may be at their most vulnerable. This is in addition to giving us a chance to test whether they have the right caring attributes and values to work in the NHS”.

Pauline Yarker, Acting Head of Education Commissioning and Quality, from Health Education North East, taking part in the pilot, said:

“We’re enthusiastic about being part of this pilot to explore and evaluate ways of ensuring the NHS recruits the right people with the right values to work for our patients.

Experiencing the front line at the very beginning of their career will allow those considering a nursing career, before committing to a healthcare profession to get a first-hand understanding of patient needs”.

A national steering group designed the pilots and developed a set of guiding principles at its inaugural event in June to support the pilots. The steering group is chaired by Sir Stephen Moss, a non-executive director of Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and a former nurse. Visit to find out more about the pilot and the opportunity to participate.

Editor’s notes

For further information contact Richard Green, Head of Media Relations, 07557 204 428.

HEE was established on 28 June 2012, working as a shadow Special Health Authority from 1 October 2012. It took on its full operational responsibilities from1 April 2013. It has five national functions:

  • providing national leadership on planning and developing the healthcare and public health workforce
  • promoting high quality education and training that is responsive to the changing needs of patients and local communities, including responsibility for ensuring the effective delivery of important national functions such as medical trainee recruitment
  • ensuring security of supply of the health and public health workforce
  • appointing and supporting the development of LETBs
  • allocating and accounting for NHS education and training resources and the outcomes achieved.

For more information on HEE visit For more information on Health Education North West, visit or follow us on Twitter: @HENorthWest

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