Preceptorship schemes for newly qualified nurses could form a central plank of the Conservative Party’s policy on nursing, should it win the next general election, HSJ’s sister publication Nursing Times understands.

A wholesale roll-out of such schemes for new nurses is one of the proposals in a consultation document on the Conservatives’ plans for the nursing profession due to be published this week, Nursing Times has learned.

A draft of the document suggests looking at whether a framework of one year “preceptorship” programmes would “yield benefits” in retaining nurses and therefore cut the amount of NHS funds “wasted” on training staff who drop out of the profession very early in their careers.

At present provision of preceptorship programmes remains patchy, and is largely decided by trusts at local level. There is also no set description for what they should comprise.

However, such schemes are one of the five principles set out in the NMC’s new framework for pre-registration nursing education, which is currently being developed.

Additionally, the government’s NHS next stage review, published last summer, pledged to triple funding available in the previous financial year for preceptorship programmes - from around £10m to £30m - but the Department of Health acknowledged at the time that this would not be enough to provide all newly qualifieds with protected time and support.

The Conservatives’ consultation document also suggests the party is keen to involve nurses in developing its future health policy, calling on the profession to put forward its views “whether positive or negative” on their new plans.

“This is your chance to help to sculpt future policy on nursing. There is much to celebrate and build on, but equally much to improve. This can only be done by exchanging ideas between health professionals and patients alike. We look forward to hearing from you,” the document states.

As well as the launch of the new proposals on nursing, Conservative leader David Cameron was due to address RCN Congress this week.

He will tell congress that the NHS is central to his vision of a “more responsible country”, where “everyone understands that life is about “we”, not just “me”’. He will also pledge that he is committed to the ideal of a health service that is “free at the point of service”.

“The moment you are injured or fall ill you know that whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whatever’s wrong, however much you’ve got in the bank, there’s a place you can go where people will look after you and do their best to make things right again. It’s why we all feel so passionately about the NHS,” he will say.

“Let me make it absolutely clear, in terms that will no doubt disappoint some who dream of replacing the NHS with a different system - I am not waiting until after the election to pull out some radical new insurance-based plan for healthcare,” he will add.

“We are not going to move from free at the point of need for all to free for some, free at times, free with a catch attached. That will never happen as long as I am in charge because I believe in the NHS. Full stop. End of story.”

Mr Cameron will also personally thank nurses for the care they gave to his six-year-old son Ivan, who died in February, and who had needed regular treatment for cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

“The people who were there for us day in, day out were our local community nurses. I cannot begin to tell you how important that support was. Not just for the practical things - like finding a special school, arranging for night care, recommending the right treatment - but for the emotional things, too: listening; reassuring; just being there with a friendly face on a difficult day,” he will tell delegates.

“They are absolute stars, and what it taught me is this. When the nursing is good, the care is good. It is the quality of nursing that determines the quality of care. I can’t imagine the number of lives that the people in this room have touched through their work. I want to say thank you for everything you do.”