More than 2,000 apprentices have been employed at Leeds Teaching Hospitals since 2010, with 20 new nursing apprentices now working on the wards as they progress towards degrees.
Apprenticeships Minister Anne Milton, on a visit to St James’ Hospital yesterday, said such schemes are changing patient care and skills provision.
“It’s absolutely fantastic, and at the heart of it is making sure that we continue to improve patient care,” said the former nurse. “Leeds NHS Trust gets the gold standard. They are doing a fabulous job. The commitment, and enthusiasm, is overwhelming.”
The schemes are “absolutely critical”, education leaders have said, ensuring a new wave of healthcare workers can be upskilled.
Dr Helen Smith, director of student education in the school of healthcare at the University of Leeds, said such schemes enable people to ‘earn while they work’ and secure degrees.
“What the apprenticeship programme has done is provided an alternative route into nursing for those who may not otherwise have the chance,” she said.
Apprenticeship Minister Anne Milton met with three of the Trusts’ nurse apprentices and two nurse associates taking part on a pilot scheme. Among them was trainee nurse Louise Edwards, from Castleford.
The 37-year-old, who had worked for the National Health Service in community roles for nearly two decades, had tried many times to secure a place on secondment schemes but they had often clashed with her commitments as a working mum.
The new scheme, on which she is combining studying for a degree with working on the wards at the hospital, has opened up a world of opportunity for her, she adds.
“I have two children, a mortgage,” she said. “I just couldn’t afford to do it on my own.
“This is just life-changing. I’ve got a different journey – and I’m probably a very different nurse to what I would have been if I’d done this 20 years ago.”