Roy Lilley: consider a nursing apprenticeship

Hattie / 20th Dec, 2016 / Advice

by Roy Lilley, health commentator and influential blogger

I am totally the wrong person to be writing this article.

I failed my eleven-plus exam and gave up on education.  It was official; I was a failure.

I then went to a school I hated where the English master said I would never write anything more interesting than a shopping list and it would be full of spelling mistakes.

I have since gone on to write 27 books, a regular newsletter seen by 300,000 people a week and have written for most national newspapers and many magazines.

I’m not a great author and I doubt I’ll ever get a sniff of a Pulitzer Prize. But, and this is the but… I enjoy what I do, am pleased to have my say and flattered anyone wants to read what I write.

I never set out to be writer.  I can’t bring myself to call me a journalist.

I think I’m what you’d call a late developer!  I wonder what I’d have done if I’d been to uni and got a degree in journalism or studied English.  I might have worked on a newspaper and watched as the industry imploded in a war with social media and been made redundant.  Or written adverts for bog rolls.  Who knows.

That’s the story of my life and my guess is, the story of a lot of people’s life.  I was taught like I was a failure.  So, I behaved like one and left school at fifteen.

The landscape of my life has been business and public service as a councilor, health authority boss and the Chair of a hospital.  The NHS is my preoccupation, my fascination and has my total admiration.

Part of the pressures it faces is staffing.  It employs 300,000 nurses and needs more.  At the moment it is a graduate-only entry.  Nurses must be equipped to diagnose, use very complicated kit, make life and death decisions and need to be expert in their craft.

They should be at least as well qualified as a contemporary might be, working in a supermarket.   Every one has a degree.

Like everyone else, nurses must have a degree.

Must they?


Graduate entry closes the door to late developers, like me.  Victims of life’s happenstance and for those who vocation has knocked on their door.

Nursing is a profession that swings from washing a bottom to working out the running time of an infusion.  From holding a hand in the blackest darkest moment, to illuminating a life with the best of good news.

Working complicated equipment, anatomy, physiology and understanding human frailty.  Pharmacology and death.  All in a day’s work for a nurse.

How can it be learnt?  At uni?  Partly.  Much of it has to be learnt in the harsh reality of the front line.

Is it the only way?

The Department of Health has woken up to reality; realised we turn our backs on potential nurses, young men and women who care, have humanity and compassion but not enough A-levels and the rest of the palaver to get into uni, or who simply don’t want to be saddled with debt. They want to get on with a job.

The new NHS Nurse Apprentice Scheme starts from next September.  Up to 1,000 nurses a year will be able to train for a degree, on the job.

There are various entry levels depending on experience and qualifications and courses could take up to five years, all the time being paid by the hospital.

Hooray! A victory for common-sense.  A victory for people who are dedicated and and want a career that can open doors world-wide and lead from the ward to the board.

Nurses are the backbone of the health service, they are the face of the front line and the ones who, in good times and bad, leave a finger print on our soul.

I hope the new opportunity might give you the opportunity you have been waiting for; gruelling shifts, intensity, testing, stretching, tears, smiles, discipline, hugs, sore feet and admiration.

What’s not to like!

If you want to find out more about nursing apprenticeships, please email hattie@unisnotforme.com 

You can also read Roy’s blog here by signing up to his newsletter: www.nhsmanagers.net


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