The Environment Secretary MP Theresa Villiers has been inspired by the personal stories of three Middlesex University nursing apprentices.
Theresa Villiers, the MP for Chipping Barnet, met nursing associates Anna Martonik, Gifty Ameka, and Jordann Long at Barnet Hospital during National Apprenticeship Week.
She also met with members of the hospital leadership team including Deborah Sanders, group chief nurse and interim chief executive of Barnet Hospital and Julie Hamilton, director of nursing at Barnet Hospital as well as Middlesex nursing academics Carmel Fitzsimons and Kathy Wilson.
Theresa Villiers was particularly keen to hear how the programme was so successful in retaining staff and encouraging life-long learning.
“It is crucial for the NHS to train up its people,” said Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
“Encouraging staff recruitment and retention is one of the biggest challenges in the country and so important for health and social care.
“It is essential that we develop the skills of our workforce to meet our needs.
“I met the former Middlesex Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Blackman, when the University first started to develop apprenticeships therefore I am delighted to hear that this programme is flourishing.”
Gifty, who is in her second year, was a health care assistant for three years before deciding to train to become a nursing associate.
She initially felt scared about going to university but says with the help and support of lecturers and peers she realised “she wasn’t too old to learn” and says “I am so much more confident now and have found my voice”.
When asked about the most rewarding aspect of her role by Theresa Villiers she doesn’t hesitate: “The best part of the job is engaging with patients.
“If you don’t know someone you can’t care for them properly.
“I feel very different now.
“I’m more confident about the care I provide and know when to ask for help.
“I think to myself ‘I know this is the right thing to do, I have read about it and I have studied it’.”
Together with Toks Ojo, the lead nurse at the hospital for training and development, Gifty gave the Environment Secretary a tour of her ward explaining how the day starts with a hand-over before dealing with medication, washing and feeding.
She is now in the position of educating health care assistants on the ward.
Anna expressed nothing but praise for her Middlesex lecturers and nursing leads.
She admits she was “pushed a little bit” to apply for the apprenticeship but has no regrets.
“It’s amazing, I’m not going to stop when this ends,” she added.
“I will aim for full nurse registration.”
Theresa Villiers was keen to find out what the hospital leadership team and Middlesex wanted from government.
“Encouraging staff recruitment and retention is one of the biggest challenges in the country and so important for health and social care. It is essential that we develop the skills of our workforce to meet our needs." Environment Secretary MP Theresa Villiers.
David Grantham, Chief People Officer at the Royal Free London, which runs Barnet Hospital, said greater flexibility with the apprenticeship levy funding would enable them to expand the programme and added that they were all keen to find out when the People Plan for the NHS would be published.
The team also emphasised that apprenticeship funding had to be equally spread – to both entry and higher levels – and that degree apprenticeships were key to boosting social mobility.
The last trainee nursing associate Theresa Villiers met had come in early before starting her night shift in the emergency department.
Jordann said she would encourage people to apply for the programme and that she meets degree students who are amazed at how much she knows.
Middlesex University began the pioneering Trainee Nursing Associate Apprenticeship in 2018 in collaboration with local employers: the Royal Free London, Whittington, North Middlesex and University College London - Barnet, Enfield and Haringey and Camden and Islington NHS Trusts, Marie Curie and several general practices.
It offers a paid job with training to industry standards and provides entry for students to become fully qualified nursing associates and achieve Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Registration.
The apprenticeships are employer-led – employers set the standards, create the demand for apprentices to meet their skills needs, fund the apprenticeship and are responsible for employing and training the nursing associate apprentice.
Middlesex University had a positive Nursing and Midwifery Council approval event this week for our nurse degree apprenticeship programme which we hope to advertise soon and we were praised for our partnership working, promoting career pathways and supporting the workforce agenda.