Health – Children's Workforce Guide to Qualifications and Training

Charlotte Goddard
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

While the NHS remains the biggest employer of children’s health professionals, many now work in multi-agency teams. In the children’s sector, roles cover a wide range of areas including nursing, midwifery, health visiting, paediatrics, mental health, substance misuse and sexual health.

During the pandemic, many final year nursing students opted to extend their clinical placements in order to support the NHS, while the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) established a temporary register for more than 14,000 former nurses and midwives.

The number of registered nurses, midwives and nursing associates in the UK is at a record high, according to the NMC – up by 18,370 from the same time last year. The number of children’s nurses continued its steady annual rise to a new total of 52,286. However, only 87.5 per cent of entry-level specialist paediatric posts were filled in 2019. There are just 15 children’s palliative care consultants in the UK – the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) suggests there should be up to 60. Meanwhile, 67 per cent of children’s hospice nursing posts remain vacant for three months or more.

There has been a significant increase in the number of nurses and midwives from outside Europe coming to work in the UK, but the number of nurses and other professionals from inside the European Economic Area has fallen by five per cent. Covid-related travel restrictions may affect recruitment from overseas.

Health Education England (HEE) is developing a blended learning nursing degree programme, with most theoretical content delivered online. Seven universities have signed up to deliver the degree from January 2021. The programme aims to make learning more accessible to students while making it easier to balance family or carer roles. “This approach has been accelerated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it will really help to enable wider access to nursing degrees for people who may previously have had barriers to a nursing career,” says Patrick Mitchell, director of innovation and transformation for HEE.

From September 2020, nursing, midwifery and allied health students in England will receive a £5,000 a year grant with additional payments of up to £3,000 to help cover childcare costs, or for students in regions or specialisms that struggle to recruit. Wales and Northern Ireland continue to offer bursaries, as does Scotland where the Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary rose to £10,000 in 2020.

Applications for nursing degrees in England have risen by 15 per cent in the past year, according to HEE.

“Interest, and subsequently applications, have risen considerably during the coronavirus pandemic,” says chief nurse Professor Mark Radford. HEE has invested £10m to expand the number of placements for people studying nursing, midwifery and selected allied health professions.

The nursing associate role is designed to bridge the roles of healthcare assistant and registered nurse. Plans to promote the role include the introduction of ambassadors who will support new applicants and highlight opportunities.

There were 2,020 school nurses employed by NHS trusts in England in April 2020, down from more than 3,000 at the start of 2010. There were 6,693 health visitors – a 35 per cent drop since 2015, when numbers reached a record high. Many health visitors were redeployed during the pandemic to support colleagues tackling Covid.

In July 2020, the NHS published its People Plan, setting out guidelines for the health and wellbeing of staff, flexible working, equality and diversity, culture and leadership, new ways of delivering care, growing the workforce, recruitment, retention and deployment.

Education mental health practitioners (EMHPs) work within newly-created Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) supporting school pupils. The role includes providing education for managing anxiety and depression and promoting approaches to improve emotional health and wellbeing. EMHPs undertake a funded 12-month university course combining academic and theory elements, self-study and work-based placements. Training programmes are currently delivered at 12 universities.

In 2020/21, HEE is expanding education and training posts for the future mental health workforce, including 245 children and young people’s psychological wellbeing practitioners. HEE is also increasing the number of training places for clinical psychology and child and adolescent psychotherapy by 25 per cent.

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists are employed by a mental health trust and undertake clinical placements. They must hold a degree, usually in psychology, and then enter academic training that culminates with a doctoral level academic qualification alongside a clinical qualification to enable them to practice.

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