First group of nursing students to undertake pioneering training scheme finish degree at Derby

Pre degree work experience celebration 500x257 "We are very proud to have been selected to be a pioneer in a new learning opportunity for aspiring nurses." Denise Baker, Lecturer in Pre-Qualifying Health Care at the University of Derby

Date posted: 3 March 2017

The first cohort of nursing students to go through a special training programme developed as a result of the inquiry into the failings of Mid Staffordshire Hospital have finished their studies at the University of Derby.

The group of 12 students were the first students to successfully undertake the Pre Degree Work Experience scheme at Derby, which offered the opportunity to take on real, paid caring experience as a healthcare assistant for six months before applying to study nursing at university.

In 2013, the government, in response to the Francis Inquiry into the failings at Mid Staffordshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, asked Health Education England to work with partners across the NHS and higher education institutions to pilot a scheme in which aspiring student nurses spend time frontline prior to receiving NHS funding for their degree.

In his Inquiry, Robert Francis called for an increased focus in nurse training and education on the practical requirements of delivering compassionate care.

Six NHS and care settings from Health Education England’s 13 local areas were selected as pilot sites, with the University of Derby being one of them. The students carried out their roles as Healthcare Assistants at the Royal Derby Hospital and Chesterfield Royal Hospital before enrolling at the University.

And this week, the first students to complete the scheme celebrated finishing their three-year Adult Nursing degrees at a special presentation event at the University where Sir Stephen Moss, Non-Executive Director at Health Education England and Non-Executive Director at Royal Derby Hospital, Lisa Bayliss Pratt, Director of Nursing at Health Education England, and Professor Mary Lovegrove OBE were present.

Denise Baker, Lecturer in Pre-Qualifying Health Care at the University of Derby – who was part of the team delivering the programme at Derby – said: “We are very proud to have been selected to be a pioneer in a new learning opportunity for aspiring nurses.

“The scheme gave our students the opportunity to gain vital experience caring for patients in real-world settings. It also allowed them to decide whether it was the right career for them before committing themselves to studying nursing at a higher education level.

“Building on our partnerships with Health Education England, the Royal Derby Hospital and Chesterfield Royal Hospital, the scheme has been extremely beneficial for collaborative working across the sector.

“The first cohort have now completed their studies and are all successfully going on to nursing jobs. We wish them the very best of luck for the future.”

Vikki Burns, 23, of Burton, was among the first cohort to take part in the Pre Degree Work Experience scheme and is soon to start her role as a nurse at the Royal Derby Hospital.

She said: “Having the experience before starting the course made me feel more confident and comfortable going into a caring role. It made me realise that there was so much more to nursing. Basic skills of care is so important.”

Liz Mannion, 46, from Sheffield, has just taken up a nursing post at Sheffield Northern General in Cardiac Intensive Care.

She added: “The Pre Degree Work Experience course gave me and my colleagues a valuable insight into nursing. It is so important that people experience working in the health care sector before studying – you have to be passionate about caring in order to really push yourself.”

The scheme was funded for two intakes only by Health Education England. However, the spirit of the scheme lives on in Derby and Chesterfield who are both still offering work experience and the opportunity to come into the nursing programme. The University of Derby is planning to extend this to allied health professional programmes in future.

Cathy Winfield, Chief Nurse for Derby Teaching Hospitals, said: “These nurses had a unique opportunity to prepare for their degree by spending six months working as health care assistants in our wards and departments, and they embraced that opportunity.

“It helped them to become familiar with the hospital environment, but also demonstrated their commitment to nursing and showed a drive to provide the best care for patients. It’s fantastic to be able to celebrate their achievement.

“Although these were the first students to follow this route, this has now been embedded into the way we work with the University to train the nurses of the future.”

For more information about studying Nursing at the University of Derby, visit: