As of autumn this year, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT), Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT), Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group and Cornwall Council plan to use the apprenticeship levy to pay students to join a new “virtual” academy while they train to become nurses.
“Cornwall has started to embark on the process of “growing our own” staff to meet these gaps”
The deal, named the “virtual health and social care academy”, means that once qualified, graduates must commit to remain working in the county for a least two years.
The hope is that it will help tackle workforce shortages and improve social mobility of people within the area.
Those behind the scheme have said it marks the start of Cornwall “growing [its] own” staff to help meet gaps in the profession.
Chief executive at CFT, Phil Confue, said: “If we didn’t come up with a different approach to recruitment and training, there would be an additional 114 vacancies in the mental health workforce alone than in 2016. This would be repeated across the different care groups.
“While a strategy of attracting more people to move to Cornwall to work in health and social care is one approach, this would be being tried by every area in England; rather Cornwall has started to embark on the process of “growing our own” staff to meet these gaps,” he said.
Academic partners supporting the scheme include the University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, University College St Mark and St John, Callywith College and Truro and Penwith College.
The first intake of students for the new academy will be in the autumn and will include both adult and mental health nurses, and clinical associate psychologists.
Director of nursing at RCHT, Kim O’Keefe, described the scheme as a “custom-made solution for Cornwall”.
“In creating the academy, we hope Cornwall will also remain at the cutting edge in developing new roles and apprenticeships for health and social care,” she said.
Following the launch of the academy, Ms O’Keefe highlighted that the trust is currently looking at how a nursing associate role can be funded and delivered in the county with Plymouth University.
Also speaking about the initiative, Armand Toms, chair of the council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny Committee, noted that for those that have aspirations to work in health and social care, the academy will give them the opportunity to do so without the “financial barriers currently in place”.
The initiative was first unveiled in February at the Cornwall Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre, when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by members behind the scheme.
Students will be paid under the government’s apprenticeship levy which is a government-managed cash pot from which all employers with a pay bill of more than £3m can draw money to fund apprenticeships.
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