Priory’s Cheadle Royal hospital celebrates record number of new ‘home-grown’ nurses

Date: 10th May 2023

  • Hospital to welcome 25 new ‘home grown’ nurses thanks to innovative ‘earn-as-you-learn’ nurse degree course
  • Priory launched course with University of Bolton to tackle a nationwide nurse shortage
  • Nine Cheadle healthcare assistants or support workers will become nurses by August 2023, with 16 more joining them by 2025
  • Across Priory’s hospitals, more than 150 employees are studying to be nurses, with 50 already qualified

On International Nurses’ Day (Friday May 12, 2023), Priory’s Cheadle Royal Hospital is celebrating a new milestone - with a record 25 employees completing their apprenticeships to become fully-fledged mental health nurses.

Because of the national shortage of nurses, especially in mental health, Priory is trying to recruit innovatively. So it launched a nurse degree apprenticeship course in partnership with the University of Bolton, which offers colleagues the chance to achieve the industry-recognised standards and qualifications to become a nurse.

So far, Priory has supported more than 200 colleagues onto the course, and in the past nine months has seen the first of those qualify and move on to their nursing career.

The apprenticeship includes elements of on-the-job and off-the-job training: 25 of the apprentices will work as nurses at Cheadle, which is Priory’s largest hospital and treats more than 500 patients a year. Nine will be fully-qualified nurses by August, and 16 more will complete their nurse training by September 2025. The vast majority live near the hospital.

Carel Strydom, Priory career and apprenticeships manager, says: “It’s such an exciting opportunity for our nurse apprentices as, in two years’ time, we’ll be in a position where we’ll have more than 200 home-grown nurses.”

Priory, the UK’s largest independent mental health and social care provider, is urging anyone considering a nursing or occupational therapist career, especially if they are local to Cheadle, to consider its Nurse and Occupational Therapist Degree Apprenticeship programmes.

To qualify, apprentices must be existing staff members who have been at Priory for at least a year and eligible to meet the degree entry requirements (Maths and English at Level 2 (equivalent to a GCSE Grade C), and a full Level 3 qualification achieved in further education). Anyone joining Cheadle as a healthcare assistant or Occupational Therapy Assistant, who passes their probation and completes one year’s service at the hospital, may be eligible to apply.

Colin Quick, Priory’s Chief Quality Officer and Chief Nurse, says: “I am so proud of the work we have done as an organisation to support so many people to achieve their ambition of being a registered nurse. I’m always going to be rather biased, but I firmly believe it to be the most rewarding and fulfilling job anyone can do.”

Zoe Hale, Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing, University of Bolton added: "These ladies were the first mental health nursing students at the University of Bolton and they have been integral in supporting us to make the course as great as it is today. The team have nothing but wonderful things to say about them, it has been a joy to spend this 3 years with them and watch them development into highly skilled and compassionate nurses, and we have no doubt they have excellent careers ahead".

Vanessa McQueen, 29, a former healthcare assistant at Priory Cheadle Royal Hospital, describes her career journey: "I decided to go into mental health nursing after my younger sister had a stroke at the age of 20. I wanted to learn more about the psychiatric aspect of her recovery, but I also wanted to ‘give back’ as a thank-you to the wonderful people who saved her life." Read more about Vanessa's nursing journey here.

Priory, which has sites across the UK, cares for more than 25,000 people a year, and achieves positive outcomes every day for those entrusted to its care. The overwhelming majority of its 300+ sites are rated ‘good’ or better by independent regulators.

While attracting and retaining staff is a challenge throughout the healthcare sector, Priory has increased its permanent headcount in the last 12 months by 726 more nurses and healthcare assistants and support workers, who are all paid at least the Real Living Wage, alongside nurses whose pay has increased by, on average, 14% since January 2020.

Anyone interested in joining Priory, and pursuing an apprenticeship, should contact [email protected] or visit the Priory jobs website.


Vanessa McQueen, 29 (third from right in photo) was a healthcare assistant in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) at Cheadle, caring for 12-18 year olds. She was ‘really pleased’ to be offered the chance to take a nursing degree, which combines on and off the job training, and has been studying for the last three years. ‘Priory pays for the course, and I am paid my salary as an HCA. It’s really good.’ She says: ‘Initially when I joined Priory in 2018, I wasn’t familiar with mental health at all, but I really liked it. The team at Cheadle is like one big community, it’s very supportive. I come from a big family, I have younger sisters, and I find this type of work really rewarding. When I heard there was a chance of doing a nursing degree, I was absolutely: ‘put me forward!’ I want to make a difference in not just the patients' lives, but also their families’. I want to be able to empower and educate people around their care. I want to give people hope, peace and understanding during the most vulnerable times of their lives. The job allows me to connect with people of all backgrounds, both patients and staff, and it encourages my own learning and development. It’s an extremely rewarding job, and although it has its challenges, I wouldn't change it for the world.’

Aisha Campbell-Carberry (farthest right in photo), 26, joined Priory as a healthcare assistant in October 2018 after completing a degree in psychology at Salford University. She began the nurse degree apprenticeship scheme in 2020. ‘You’re based partly at university and then have placements as a student nurse,’ she says. ‘It’s been really good and I have had a positive experience. A lot of the placements have been at Cheadle Hospital, where you go on to different wards and might recognise faces there. I also worked at a Priory hospital in Bury, and on a community placement with children at an external company.’ She is looking forward to being a qualified nurse. ‘Just having that sense of responsibility, and leading a team in the right direction, will be really rewarding. Bringing my experience as an HCA will be beneficial too. After seeing general nursing, I definitely knew mental health was for me because you see patients at their point of crisis then getting better. The results can be massive. No day is the same. It can be difficult, but it’s really enjoyable when you see patients recover; the amount of close-knit teamwork that goes into that is huge.”



Contact: [email protected]