All nurses will need to be educated to degree level from 2013, the Government announced today.
At present, nurses receive a diploma after two or three years of training but they will now have to complete three or four years to obtain a degree.
The move is as a result of changes in recent years to the way nurses work, including handling more advanced levels of practice, prescribing and working in specialist disease areas, such as diabetes.
Nursing courses will match up to new a set of standards set out by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and will include more practical experience outside of hospitals.
Current training involves a combination of theoretical and practical work but the new standards, which are open to consultation, will include a focus on students gaining experience in community health teams.
Trainees will also shadow school health nurses and district nurses who work with people in their own homes.
Health Minister, Ann Keen, said: "Nurses are the largest single profession within the health service, and are critical to the delivery of high quality health care.
"By bringing in degree-level registration we can ensure new nurses have the best possible start to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
"Degree-level education will provide new nurses with the decision-making skills they need to make high-level judgments in the transformed NHS.
"This is the right direction of travel if we are to fulfil our ambition to provide higher quality care for all."
Chief nursing officer, Christine Beasley, said: "More young people than ever are studying for a degree and this will make nursing more attractive to them.
"Degree-level nurse education will be supported by a national framework for preceptorship which will ensure that new nurses have the support they need to make the transition to confident practitioner."
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: "This is an important and historic development, which the RCN has been in support of for many years.
"All nurses need to put quality care at the centre of what they do, and they also need extensive knowledge, analytical skills and experience to work in a range of settings.
"Many nursing roles are demanding and involve increasingly advanced levels of practice and clinical knowledge.
"This is not about restricting entry to the nursing profession, in fact we must ensure that the door to nursing continues to be as wide as possible.
"Students must also be properly supported to continue in their studies.
"Above all, we need a nurse education system which encourages the best entrants to pursue a career in care."Reuse content