South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust Cadet Scheme


01 / 02 / 2012

The organisation

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust is consistently ranked as a high performing NHS organisation. The Care Quality Commission, the independent body which inspects NHS providers, gave the trust ratings of ‘excellent’ for the quality of our services and ‘excellent’ for the use of resources. The organisation has recently merged to provide both acute services for South Tyneside and community health services for South Tyneside, Gateshead and Sunderland.

What we did and why

The Nurse Cadet Programme was developed by community health services in 2003 as part of a wider recruitment and retention strategy. The programme is specifically aimed at young people aged 16 to 18 and offers an alternative pathway to nurse education as part of the widening access agenda. The trust’s ‘skills escalation’ approach has received commendation at both regional and national level.

Previously a Nurse Cadet undertook an 18 month education programme which provided work experience within a healthcare environment leading to a BTEC Certificate in Health and a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in General Health Level 3 alongside clinical placements. The cadet programme had received pathway approval through the University of Northumbria and on successful completion of the cadetship, nurse cadets commenced the Advanced Diploma in Adult Nursing at the University of Northumbria.

In 2010, the Nursing and Midwifery Council agreed that pre-registration nurse education in the United Kingdom should be at degree level and that diploma level programmes would cease from September 2012.

Taking account of this planned change, a mapping exercise has been undertaken in partnership with the University of Northumbria to identify potential opportunities to further develop our programme to facilitate continuation of cadet pathways as part of the widening access agenda. On 28 November 2011, agreement was reached with the University of Northumbria on the development of a new vocational pathway.

How we did it

The “BTEC National Extended Diploma in Health Studies” has been identified as a suitable programme to deliver alongside the existing competency based apprenticeship framework. The BTEC National carries a 280 UCAS tariff credit (which equates to 3 A levels) and would therefore allow continued access to pre registration programmes.  The points are subject to learners achieving defined grades (distinction, merit, merit) The current articulation agreement between Northumbria University and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust will be extended and amended to offer 40 credits against the cadet programme should learners require them (depending on their final grade).

Additionally, the trust’s current recruitment criteria for cadets needs to change as, in addition to the 280 UCAS credits, recruits to the programme will also need to have a minimum of five GCSEs at C or above including English, Maths and Science.

The BTEC National could also be used as a standalone bridging qualification for Health Care Assistants who already have the relevant NVQ and GCSEs to allow progression to the degree.

Clinical placements are identified to support a cadet’s main placements, taking into consideration demands on team, current student and Nurse Cadet allocation. Nurse Cadets are allocated to one team/base for the majority of their cadetship and spend approximately six months in a variety of taster placements.

Results and next steps

To date, 57 cadets have entered the programme and of that number:

  • six cadets (Cohort 9) have recently been recruited to start cadetship in March 2012
  • Seven cadets (Cohort 8) are currently progressing and all are on target to complete the programme and step onto the first year of the Advanced Diploma in Adult Nursing in March 2012
  • 44 have successfully completed their cadetship
    • Of the 44 Nurse Cadets that have successfully completed the programme:
      • 21 are currently undertaking their nurse training and are expected to return to the organisation between March 2012 and March 2014
      • 23 have qualified and of those:
        • 1 secured a post within the NHS
        • 22 returned to the Rotational Staff Nurse Programme within the organisation

Tips for other trusts

The organisation uses a 50/50 approach by combining both practical clinical experience and academic underpinning knowledge. Providing a combination of theory and practical skills allows the acquisition of skill to take place and prepare the cadet to progress to higher education.

Further information and contact details

For further information please contact Michaela Musk, Project Nurse – Workforce and Creative Posts on 0191 2831352 -  

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