The government has been warned by health officials that scrapping BTEC vocational qualifications could reduce the number of nurses.
Danny Mortimer, Deputy Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, has written to new Education Secretary James Cleverly warning the NHS ‘cannot afford’ to lose potential nurses due to a lack of career paths. training.
In the letter, he said that while the government planned to steer nursing students towards T-levels instead, these have higher entry requirements that many of those studying BTEC would not meet.
He added that 47% of those enrolled in BTEC are from the “most deprived areas of our communities” and 47% have educational needs.
Mr Mortimer said young people who have undertaken BTECs appreciate their flexibility and “modular approach”.
He added that 7,120 people following nursing education programs had a BTEC in health and social work, while in 2017 only 5,945 students starting a nursing degree held an A-level diploma.
He pointed out that T-levels are only open to 16-19 year olds and require a 45-day internship which the NHS and social care settings would not be able to provide. Not all clinical placements would be open to under-18s, he added.
“With over 105,000 vacancies in the NHS and 150,000 in social care, the sector simply cannot afford to lose the workforce of tomorrow due to a lack of suitable training pathways” , did he declare.
“At the very least, the Department for Education must undertake an impact assessment specifically focused on the consequences of the abolition of BTEC qualifications on the NHS and social care. In the meantime, the decision must be suspended.
Health officials fear the end of qualifications will exacerbate staff shortages in the sector, with the BTEC in health and social care due to end by 2024 as qualifications are replaced by new courses T level.
Mr Mortimer said the plans were “incredibly myopic”.
He added: “At a time when the NHS is already extremely short-staffed and has 105,000 vacancies, depriving the health service of a pipeline of new recruits in nursing, midwifery and other healthcare, is both reckless and ill-advised and may well leave the NHS, along with our colleagues in social care, to try to fill many thousands more vacancies every year for years to come.
Around 30,000 students are currently studying for health and social care related BTEC qualifications in England, of which around 14,700 are studying full-time.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: ‘It is essential that qualifications meet the needs of employers and help more people get into better-skilled and better-paying jobs.
“Our health T-level has been co-created with employers, including the NHS, so that students gain the skills and experience needed to start roles in the health sector, and to progress to university and continue their studies.
“We will continue to fund BTEC and other qualifications in the future where there is a clear need for young people to have access to high quality options.”
The Royal College of Nursing’s deputy director for nursing education, research and ethics, Nicola Ashby, said: ‘This is yet another example of the government making it harder, not easier, to access to nursing in England. There is a workforce crisis and every potential nurse is needed for safe patient care.
Dr Ashby added: “BTEC health and social care courses are a well-established route into nursing, with around a fifth of learners going on to study nursing. They provide an opportunity for people from low-income backgrounds and mature students who might otherwise be denied.
“Furthermore, without government-funded tuition fees for nursing degrees, access to higher education will be further compromised. We support the NHS employers’ call for an urgent overhaul.