Bridgwater & Taunton College

Nursing home-grown talent

The first Further Education college to gain consent from The Nursing & Midwifery Council and a university partner to deliver nursing degrees locally, opening up new career routes for all ages and responding to workforce challenges within the local NHS.

The nationwide shortage of qualified nurses is well documented, but the problem is particularly acute in Somerset, a county with no major cities or traditional university campuses.

Bridgwater & Taunton College has spent a decade negotiating, collaborating and innovating to overcome this challenge, becoming the first FE college to gain the consent of both the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) and its university partner (University of the West of England) to deliver nursing degrees locally and in its own right. The College was also the first FE College to be invited and accepted into the Council of Deans of Health as an Associate Member, and now sits alongside university healthcare faculties at the heart of policy and political debate. In addition, the College has become the Further Education representative on NHS England’s South West Region Nursing and Midwifery Supply Board, actively contributing to removing barriers to health careers.

In partnership with the College, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust is strategically addressing some of the biggest workforce challenges and threats to the delivery of high quality, sustainable health care across the South West region. This provision is a superb example of a college responding to local workforce demand. Not only has it opened up exciting new career and progression routes for individuals of all ages in Somerset, but in doing so has made a hugely positive contribution to the health and wellbeing of the entire community, whilst also ensuring that local talent is retained in-county, where it is desperately needed to help resolve a critical workforce crisis.

By becoming the first FE establishment to secure NMC approval through to degree level in both adult and mental health nursing, the College has brought nurse education directly to the Somerset community, offering those who may not have previously had the opportunity to become fully qualified nurses. For example, 83% of students are coming from TUNDRA Quintiles 1-3 and over 22% of apprentices on programme are over 40 years of age. Since approval from the Nursing Midwifery Council in 2021, the College has exponentially grown to 300 students on programme, with an attrition rate of less than 5%. Of those successfully completing the programme to date, 89% (205 graduates) have been directly employed into the NHS across the South West region.