The government has rubber stamped plans for nursing in England to become a degree only profession

The decision by the Department of Health follows the Nursing and Midwifery Council ratification of proposals to make nursing in England an all graduate profession in September 2008.

Speaking this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, chief nursing officer for England Christine Beasley said the change was a “small but important step” that would help give nurses the “real ability to think and make decisions” as care became more complex. “It’s not about moving nurses away from direct care,” she added.

During the same programme, Unison head of nursing Gail Adams reiterated the union’s concerns that the move to degree only entry would lead to a narrowing of the diversity of backgrounds nurses currently came from and, as a result, mean the profession was less reflective of the society it cared for.

However, the Royal College of Nursing welcomed the move. RCN chief executive Peter Carter said: “This is an important and historic development, which the RCN has supported for many years.”

Health minister Ann Keen said: “Nurses are the largest single profession within the health service, and are critical to the delivery of high quality health care. Degree level education will provide new nurses with the decision making skills they need to make high level judgements in the transformed NHS.”

“This is the right direction of travel if we are to fulfil our ambition to provide higher quality care for all,” she added.