FRESH cohorts of nurses and midwives graduating in Oxfordshire could double in size with the arrival of the Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery.

The partnership between Oxford's two universities and the county's two NHS trusts will see students gain hands-on experience across the system.

It aims to address issues of recruitment and retention by encouraging students to stay in Oxfordshire once they graduate, and attract the best graduates to the county.

Up to 120 nurses and midwives currently graduate from Oxford Brookes every year and by the end of 2017/18 this is set to rise to 250.

Liz Westcott, head of the department of nursing at Brookes, said: "Both of our trusts have requested we increase our numbers of nurses.

"We are recruiting more than we have ever done for this September and still have some places. By having a school, we hope to attract fantastic candidates."

The school will be formally launched on June 20 and will include all branches of Nursing and Midwifery such as paediatrics, mental health and learning disabilities.

All students at Brookes will spend eight weeks learning at the Marston Road campus before embarking on work at Oxford University Hospitals and Oxford Health sites.

A further 2,300 hours, about half of the course, will be spent practicing in the NHS including acute and community hospitals, midwife-led units (MLUs) and care settings.

They will spend eight weeks learning at the Marston Road campus before embarking on work at Oxford University Hospitals and Oxford Health sites.

Dr Westcott said: "It's vitally important our students have as much in the community as the hospital. They all absolutely love being in practice."

OUH has stated it hopes the school will be ranked in league tables' top 10 Schools of Nursing and Midwifery in the UK within five years.

Retention is a key issue for Oxfordshire's NHS trusts, with 17.6 per cent of band 5 staff nurses – which includes midwives and adult nurses – moving on within 12 months.

This week the Royal College of Midwives also warned of a "gathering storm" for maternity in England as the country is 3,500 midwives short of what it needs.

OUH chief nurse Catherine Stoddart said: "The new school will be a real opportunity to offer training not only at an exceptional level in Oxford, but one that builds an affinity in our trust, and aims in the longer term to address some of the local difficulties to recruit and retain the high calibre of nursing and midwifery staff it employs."

Courses will begin at the newly-rebranded school from September. Brookes has stressed that the 'right values' are more important in prospective candidates than high grades.

Research opportunities will also be provided by the Oxford Institute of Nursing and Allied Health Research, which was launched by Brookes in 2016.

Ros Alstead, Director of Nursing and Clinical Standards at Oxford Health, said: "We hope to encourage more local people into choosing nursing as a career.

"The school utilises the expertise of two NHS trusts together with the two universities, aiming for nursing in Oxford to be one of the leading schools in the UK and world."