Press release

Changes to vocational BTEC health care qualifications could see loss of thousands of new nurse recruits every year, warn NHS leaders

Danny Mortimer warns employers across the NHS have concerns about changes to vocational qualifications and the impact on the workforce crisis

13 July 2022

NHS leaders are calling on the Government to urgently reconsider its decision to scrap vocational Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) courses in health and social care or risk severely exacerbating the workforce crisis

NHS Employers, which is part of the NHS Confederation, on behalf of healthcare leaders, has penned a letter to the education secretary James Cleverly, warning that abandoning BTEC qualifications in health and social care will put at risk an important health staffing pipeline that allows thousands of potential nursing and midwifery recruits to join degree courses each year.

Healthcare leaders across England are warning that bringing these qualifications to an end will stymy an already very fragile health and social care recruitment sector at a time when both the NHS and social care are plagued by chronic staff shortages carrying 105,000 across the health service and further 150,000 in social care.

However, recent Government education policy changes spell the end of the BTEC qualifications in health and social care by 2024, with the vocational diplomas instead being replaced by new two-year, post GCSE T-Level courses.

NHS leaders are now urging the Government to rethink its approach, warning that doing away with BTECs in health and social care will jeopardise the recruitment of a valuable cohort of future health and care staff due to a lack of suitable training pathways.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, part of the NHS Confederation, said:

“Abolishing these important BTEC courses in health and social care is an incredibly short-sighted decision by the Government.  

“At a time when the NHS is already extremely short staffed and carrying 105,000 vacancies, depriving the health service of a pipeline of fresh nursing, midwifery and other healthcare recruits, is both reckless and ill-advised and could well leave the NHS, as well as our colleagues in social care, to grapple with trying to fill several thousand more vacancies every year in the years to come.

“At the very least, healthcare leaders would urge that the education secretary presses pause and undertakes an urgent impact assessment to better understand the consequences scrapping BTEC qualifications will have on the NHS and social care sector.”

Healthcare leaders fear that the higher-level entry grades for T-Level courses, coupled with the fact that they are only available to 16–19-year-olds, mean thousands will be deterred from applying.

The new T-Level courses will also require a work placement in an NHS or social care setting which leaders say they will struggle to provide without significant additional investment.

Around 30,000 students are currently studying for health and social care related BTEC qualifications in England, of which approximately 14,700 are studying full time.

2017 data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (the latest year for which figures are available) shows that over around 7,000 (approximately 20 per cent) of people on nurse degree training programmes joined these higher education courses by first completing a further education BTEC.

The figure is consistently higher than those who first take A-levels as an entry route to nurse degree training, which number around 6,000 a year on average.

The health and social care BTEC vocational qualification often provides direct routes into NHS support worker roles in nursing, midwifery or allied health professions.

They can also provide an important foundation for people to move into higher education to train for careers as registered nurses, midwives, radiographers and other allied health professionals.

About us

We are the membership organisation that brings together, supports and speaks for the whole healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The members we represent employ 1.5 million staff, care for more than 1 million patients a day and control £150 billion of public expenditure. We promote collaboration and partnership working as the key to improving population health, delivering high-quality care and reducing health inequalities.