Preceptorship now on national agenda, says NHS leader

Preceptorship has successfully been moved onto the national agenda, according to a nurse leader at NHS England.

Winnie George, who leads on preceptorship in her role at the organisation, said she was “proud” of the fact that the profile of preceptorship had been raised.

“I’m proud that we’re doing this nationally”

Winnie George

Ms George was among a panel of speakers at the Celebrating Preceptorship event held in London on Monday to mark two years of the national nursing preceptorship framework in England.

The framework has set new standards for health and social care organisations to adhere to in relation to the support they provide their newly registered nurses.

Asked what she was most proud of about the national preceptorship project, Ms George said it was that “we’ve got preceptorship on the national agenda”.

She noted that a few years ago, when she was a preceptorship lead in London, “we were having different conversations”.

“But now we’re doing this nationally. I’m proud that we’re doing this nationally,” added Ms George, whose title at NHS England is national programme lead (retention).

She paid tribute to her colleagues, Desiree Cox and Dr Jane Wray, who have led the roll out of the framework in their roles as programme lead and senior clinical nurse advisor, respectively, and whose work is now coming to an end.

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The framework came as Nursing Times, in partnership with the union Unison and charity the Florence Nightingale Foundation, began a campaign for improved preceptorship, amid concerns that too many newly registered nurses were being thrown in at the deep end and left to sink or swim.

Encouragingly, a recent survey that we conducted as part of this ongoing campaign suggested that access to, and quality of, preceptorship has improved over the last two years. However, further work is needed to make sure every new nurse has a good start to their career.

Looking ahead, Ms George noted that both NHS England and chief nursing officer Dame Ruth May had “committed to preceptorship” and she vowed, herself, to keep “championing preceptorship”.

She noted that support for early career nurses was important because, nationally, the first two years of registration was the period when the NHS lost the most nurses.

As such, there were conversations happening nationally about what should be offered to nurses in their second year after registration, following completion of a preceptorship, said Ms George.

In London, a “beyond preceptorship” framework has been introduced, which offers a toolkit aimed at helping employers to support post-preceptorship nurses to plan their next career steps.

Speaking about beyond preceptorship, Louise Morton, chief nurse at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust in London, said: “It’s so important that that second period of practice is purposeful, is exciting [and] is developmental, if we want to keep people to then go on to the next stages.”

Meanwhile, the panel at the event also fielded questions from senior nurses in the audience about the “interim quality mark” (IQM) that has been introduced as part of the preceptorship framework.

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To date, 180 health and organisations have achieved the IQM, meaning they have gone above and beyond for their newly registered nurses and met the “gold standards” of preceptorship described in the framework.

However, nurse leaders attending the event asked the panel when the “interim” part of the title would be dropped from the IQM.

They were told that the ambition, eventually, was to move to a multi-professional national preceptorship quality mark that would involve nursing, midwifery, the allied health professions and potentially other groups. But work on that was still underway.

Addressing delegates, Ms George from NHS England said: “Our ambition will be to have a multi-professional framework.

“We know that everyone’s really keen to see some digital solutions around preceptorship”

Jane Wray

“We don’t know what that would look like. But when we are in a position to know that we’ve got the right resources for that, we will work with you and co-design and co-produce what that looks like.”

Ms George said she had discussed the idea with Stuart Tuckwood, national nursing officer at Unison, as well as others. “We’re all committed to that piece of work. And hopefully it will be soon,” she said.

Other topics covered during the panel session included digitising preceptorship processes and resources.

Dr Wray, nurse advisor to the preceptorship project, said: “We know that everyone’s really keen to see some digital solutions around preceptorship.

“There’s so much information that people need to capture,” she said. “One of the things we found, as we’ve gone through the quality mark, is that sometimes it’s really difficult for people to evidence what they’re doing, because they don’t have the digital systems and processes in place to record it accurately, and to report it accurately.”

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She highlighted that there were a number of digital platforms available, but going forwards she hoped to “see a national, consistent approach to a platform for preceptorship recording and reporting”.

With funding for the national preceptorship team due to end after March 2024, Ms Cox and Dr Wray closed the event by reflecting on the progress made and thanked those who had supported the work.

Speaking to Nursing Times, Ms Cox said the project had been “incredible” and that she hoped to see support for newly registered staff further improve.

She said: “There’s just so much passion and enthusiasm for preceptorship. What I’d really like to see is that passionate and enthusiasm expanded into the culture of organisations, so that we have preceptees who are supported by everybody in an organisation, not just by preceptors.”

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