Nuffield Health supports Healthcare Assistants to achieve university degrees and professional nursing qualifications

Four Healthcare Assistants at Nuffield Health’s Leeds Hospital have successfully achieved a Foundation Degree from Leeds University as part of a pilot for a new Nursing Associate apprenticeship.

The four successful applicants (Diane Warren, Natalie McCaffrey, Simon Armitage and Jolanta Barker, pictured with Jay Morris) were supported to study at Leeds University by Nuffield Health, balancing their family commitments and financial obligations.

Nursing Associates are patient-facing healthcare workers who bridge the gap between the role of a Healthcare Assistant and Registered Nurse. Nuffield Health’s Apprenticeship Pathway is a work-based learning model that has provided participants the opportunity to flexibly learn, while working ‘on the job’. It helps them balance their personal commitments and the pathway is funded by Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest healthcare charity.

“Nuffield Health values the importance of investing in our people and developing talent. A number of healthcare assistants were identified as rising stars in their roles and aspired to a career in Nursing,” says Jay Morris, Clinical Educator & Learning and Development Specialist at Nuffield Health.

“Leeds Hospital was identified as a pilot site because of the educational support and resource available and we collaborated with Leeds University, which offered the Nursing Associate qualification”.

“The pilot has been a resounding success, and for the Nursing Associate Apprentices at Leeds, they are have worked incredibly hard to achieve this qualification. Now they have achieved their qualification, they are eligible to register with the regulatory body - the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Embracing this new role and supporting the development of internal ability, has helped strengthen our future nursing talent pipeline and we are delighted to welcome them to the nursing family at Nuffield Health.

Following the success of the initial pilot, we now have a further 14 apprentices on the Nursing Associate programme across 31 hospitals nationwide with an additional 20 expected to start in February 2021,” adds Jay.

Simon’s story

“I’m in my tenth year with Nuffield Health Hospital in Leeds. As part of my training I have had the opportunity to shadow multi-disciplinary teams in different departments throughout the organisation, in order to gain experience and knowledge within the field of nursing,” says Simon Armitage.

“This was achieved through observing and participating in all aspects of patient care, while under the direct supervision of a registered nurse. While on my placement in the Post-Anaesthetic Care Unit, I have been supported to achieve my nursing competencies by looking after patients who had undergone surgical procedures either under local, general or spinal anaesthetic and learning how to care for them. Everyone I have worked with on the unit have been amazing. Nothing was too much trouble and I was actively encouraged to ask questions.

“Nuffield Health has also provided fantastic support to me while I’ve being studying and helped me to get diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia. This really worried me at first as I didn’t want to fall behind with my study and both Leeds University and Nuffield Health helped me to access assistive technology, software and one-to-one study support with a tutor for my academic work,” says Simon.

Diane’s story

“There were sleepless nights and stressful days, especially when essays and exams are due; but the joy of triumph when you’ve passed or achieved something is all worth it,” says Diane Prince.

“When the pandemic broke out on my second year of study it brought added stress and uncertainty. Nuffield Health’s Leeds Hospital worked with the local NHS Trust taking in NHS patients and I loved gaining experience of working with other team members with different specialties such as intensive care, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy.”

“Now I’m armed with my new qualification and with it, the skills and knowledge I have developed from mine and other peoples’ experience I want to support my team and mentor students and healthcare assistants who would like to progress their career just like I have,” adds Diane.

Natalie’s story

“My personal worry was could I manage my family life, work and studying? I have three children and at the time of starting they were aged 13, 9 and 4,” says Natalie McCaffrey.

“During the first year of study I was organising my wedding and in the second year, I sadly lost my mother and father-in-law. I succeeded because of the support and understanding from both the university, Jay Morris, and my hospital department teammates.”

“I believe if you have a good support network around you, you can achieve anything you want. I am very proud to have started my new role as a qualified Nursing Associate and I’m thankful to Nuffield Health for the opportunities they have given me,” adds Natalie.

Jolanta’s story

“My son is 10 years old and my husband works office hours from Monday to Friday, therefore childcare was my main concern. This was fully understood by the ward manager, who allowed me to have flexible shifts and protective learning time before my university assignments were due in,” says Jolanta Barker.

“All my work colleagues fully embraced my new role as a Trainee Nursing Associate and fully supported me at work, sharing their knowledge and experience and guiding me through a patient’s journey when requiring nursing care. Right from the beginning of the course, I have received great support with both clinical and academic work and now I have qualified, my goal for the future is to do a top up degree in nursing to become a registered nurse,” she adds.

A platform for career progression

“The hard work, determination to succeed and commitment that Diane, Natalie, Simon and Jolanta have shown towards their own professional development is admirable,” says Ben Davies, Head of Professional Education at Nuffield Health.

“We recognise that there are many individuals working in healthcare who have the ability, but through circumstance, may not have had the opportunity to undertake academic study and embark on a professional career path.”

“Nuffield Health’s apprenticeship pathway provides a platform for individuals in this scenario to grow, professionally develop and attain a professional qualification while they work. Most importantly, the pathway enables individuals like Diane, Natalie, Simon and Jolanta to fully realise their potential and enhance the contribution that they make towards the delivery of outstanding patient care.”

Maria Robinson, the Hospital Director at Nuffield Health’s Leeds Hospital, is keen to continue developing the skillset of the hospital team. “Diane, Natalie, Simon and Jolanta are working hard to achieve their potential,” she says.

“My priority is to support our hospital team members with continual learning opportunities and a flexible work-life balance to deliver the best care to patients at our hospital. This includes developing nurses and clinicians professionally and as a charity, Nuffield Health can reinvest income into delivering development and training opportunities to support people’s career aims.”

To find out more about career opportunities at Nuffield Health, visit here.

For further information about clinical apprenticeships at Nuffield Health, please contact Jay Morris at

Last updated Wednesday 10 February 2021

First published on Wednesday 10 February 2021