Online nursing degrees to be introduced by 2020

The new online nursing degree will be designed to make nursing training ‘more accessible’.

Ian Snug
7 January 2019
student in front of laptop

Health bosses have announced plans to develop an online undergraduate nursing degree.

As part if the NHS Long Term Plan, NHS England has announced plans to roll out a new online nursing degree which is designed to make nursing training ‘more accessible’.


In order to attract more mature students to the profession, the plan reveal the fees will be ‘substantially less’ than the £9,250 a year currently charged by universities on traditional degree pathways.

Although academic learning would take place online, the course will still offer students clinical placements within NHS organisations.

Plans reveal the online nursing degree should be in place by 2020 – depending on the speed of regulatory approval.

The announcement was included in the NHS Long Term Plan’s chapter on workforce development – details on the implementation of the new online nursing degree will be published later in a separate workforce implementation plan document.


Not a ‘magic bullet’.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Acting Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, commenting on the NHS Long Term Plan, said: “We welcome the ambitions outlined in the plan, and it deserves to succeed. But translating good intentions into better treatment and care for patients relies on having the right number of nurses with the right skills across our NHS.”

“As the Prime Minister said in her speech today, the NHS’s biggest asset is its staff. It is strange then that this plan offers no money for nurses to develop the specialisms and skills patients need. And it is equally concerning that online courses are presented as a magic bullet to solve the workforce crisis.

“Nursing degrees demand both academic and practical skills which student nurses learn from contact with professionals and peers, a model not easily replicated online, even with clinical placements. Nursing is career like no other, and it takes the right values and ambition to succeed. Entry standards are rigorous because they have to be – it is what safe patient care demands.”

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow Health Secretary, said; “we know the NHS is facing a staffing crisis with desperate shortages for over 40,000 nurses and midwives. As well as supporting the  current workforce nether with professional development we need to do more to help train nurses, midwives and allied health professionals for the future which is why Labour will bring back the bursary. It’s hugely disappointing the Long Term Plan doesn’t restore it.”


‘Careful implementation’.

The Council of Deans, the body that represents university nursing and midwifery faculties, expressed also expressed concerns over the plans.

Brian Webster-Henderson, Council of Deans of Health Chair, said: “We need to see further details on this. Nursing is a high cost subject and is unlikely to be much cheaper when accessed online so the Government would need to subsidise this route.

Adding; “I am concerned that without careful implementation this option could undermine the important local relationships between employers and universities.”

A spokesperson for the Nursing and Midwifery Council said: “We’re committed to supporting new and innovative ways of teaching and learning that give students the knowledge and skills they need to meet our standards, alongside a rich learning experience.

“While models of flexible and blended learning for nursing already exist, we look forward to exploring the possibility of new developments for nursing degrees with the government and Education institutions as well as our partners across the health and care sector in the coming months.”


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