Department of Health News

Education & Societies

Nursing associate role offers new route into nursing

On the 17th December 2015, Health Minister Ben Gummer  announced a plan to create a new nursing support role. Provisionally called nursing associates, they will work alongside healthcare support workers and fully qualified nurses focusing on patient care.

The role, which could also be a new route for those wishing to become a registered nurse, has been recommended by nursing leaders and other healthcare professionals. The addition to the care workforce will help bridge the gap between healthcare support workers, who have a care certificate, and registered nurses.

Proposals will see staff trained through this route learning on the job via an apprenticeship leading to a foundation degree. The government will also look at what opportunities there are for staff in this role to progress to become a registered nurse through either a degree level nurse apprenticeship or a shortened nursing degree at university.

The new nursing support role is expected to work alongside healthcare support workers and fully qualified nurses to deliver hands on care, ensuring patients continue to get the compassionate care they deserve. Nursing associates will support nurses to spend more time using their specialist training to focus on clinical duties and take more of a lead in decisions about patient care.

It will be up to individual NHS employers to decide how many nursing associates they need in their organisation. However, subject to the outcome of a consultation, it is anticipated that up to 1,000 nursing associates could be trained from 2016. The government remains committed to training the right number of staff and will maintain nurse training places as the scheme goes forward; 23,000 more nurses should be available by the end of this parliament.

There will be a consultation on all the specifics of the scope of this role, including the title, with representatives from the nursing profession including the royal colleges and representative unions in the new year.

Health Minister Ben Gummer said:

This new role, and the opportunity it offers for those who want to progress to a registered nurse, will open up a career in nursing for thousands of people from all backgrounds. Hard-working NHS staff are the lifeblood of the NHS and with an ageing population and changing patient needs, it is vital that we look at new ways to help staff deliver high quality, safe care across the week.

Along with the recent changes to student funding, which will enable universities to offer up to 10,000 additional training places over this parliament, we will ensure the profession is accessible for all those with the skills, values and ambition to choose nursing. We will consult widely in the new year as we want to ensure nursing apprenticeships and this new post are correctly formed.

Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said:

Health and care assistants are a really important part of the team and should be given the opportunity to develop, which is why we continue to work with Health Education England and the Nursing and Midwifery Council on the development of a tangible career path. This new role will provide a valuable addition to this work by creating a bridge between senior health and care assistants and registered nurses. It will also benefit registered nurses by providing additional support in meeting the needs of our patients.