By politics.co.uk staff
All National Health Service nurses will be required to complete a degree before beginning work within four years, the Department of Health (DoH) has announced.
The major reform to the NHS has been introduced in a bid to improve the standard of practice provided by Britain's 400,000 nurses.
The transition from the present diplomas, which take two or three years to complete, will see trainee nurses completing more practical experience outside hospitals and improve knowledge of more complex practices.
"Nurses are the largest single profession within the health service, and are critical to the delivery of high quality healthcare," health minister Ann Keen said.
"By bringing in degree-level registration we can ensure new nurses have the best possible start to meet the challenges of tomorrow."
Opponents of the move fear better-qualified nurses will be increasingly reluctant to undertake the more unpleasant daily duties of nursing.
But the chief nursing officer, Christine Beasley, insisted the move would make nursing "more attractive" to many.
"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," she said.