WORKFORCE: A North West trust has partnered with a local university to launch the first degree course to offer student nursing places not commissioned by Health Education England.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust helped to design the new University of Bolton course to help address its nursing shortage, with all students accepted on to the programme offered a job at the trust after graduation.

Royal Preston hospital

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust helped design the new course

Each year 50 places will be available on the three year course, with students applying through UCAS and self-funding their study via the student loan system.

Karen Swindley, the trust’s workforce and education director, told HSJ the programme was designed to address workforce pressures caused by higher patient acuity, the national focus on safe staffing after the Francis inquiry, and a high dropout rate among student nurses in the North West.

Ms Swindley said: “We recognised that we have not got sufficient trained nurses in the system and that… is unlikely to change going forward.”

This led the trust to look at how it could put more student places into the system beyond those commissioned by HEE, she added.

Although the students on the course will have to pay for their study, unlike those funded by HEE, Ms Swindley was confident demand would be strong.

“What we do know is that the demand for places nationally for nursing absolutely outstrips the number of commissioned places that are being provided,” she said.

A cohort of “about 20” will start the course in February, but there are already 160 applications for 25 places for a later cohort in September.

Ms Swindley suggested that self-funding could result in a lower dropout rate compared to commissioned places, and said the trust would seek to retain graduates by developing “a sense of pride and belonging” while acting as the placement partner.

She said the trust had been able to work with the university to tailor the course, with patients helping to develop the course content and select applicants.

While this was the first such programme in the country, Ms Swindley said there had been “considerable interest” in the idea from other providers.

George Holmes, Bolton’s vice chancellor, said: “Our university is committed to working in partnership to develop innovative, career focused learning programmes and so we are very pleased to be working with such a forward thinking trust.”