The NHS in the South West is on course to put in place more than 600 apprentices over the next six months. NHS organisations across the region are working with the National Apprenticeship Service to boost recruitment to apprenticeships in a range of area

The NHS in the South West is on course to put in place more than 600 apprentices over the next six months.

NHS organisations across the region are working with the National Apprenticeship Service to boost recruitment to apprenticeships in a range of areas.

The South West Strategic Health Authority, with support from the Department of Health, is providing additional funding of around £1.2 million to support the project, which is part of a national campaign to increase the number of apprentices in the public sector.

Hospitals and Primary Care Trusts from Taunton to Truro, from Bristol to Bournemouth have enthusiastically embraced the campaign - and are already seeing the benefits.

This includes 12 apprentices for the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Acute Trust, 32 for the Devon Primary Care Trust and eight for the Devon Partnership NHS Mental Health Trust.

At the moment apprentices are mostly being recruited to non-clinical areas. These include jobs in business administration, estates, catering and IT.

There has also been strong interest in apprenticeships for health care assistants and interest from dental nurses and pharmacy assistants.

The NHS is hoping to extend placements into more clinical support areas such as occupational therapy assistants, lab assistants, radiography assistants and phlebotomists.

John Chudley, Regional Director with the National Apprenticeships Service, said: "These apprentices will get real on-the-job experience while improving their qualifications and contributing to the NHS workforce. We have been delighted with the way NHS South West organisations have enthusiastically embraced the project and have seen the real benefits apprentices can bring, particularly in areas and departments which have an ageing workforce. Their real commitment is shown by the fact that here in the South West we look set to exceed the target the government set for us.