A new nursing tier? Nursing Associate role proposed

Policy and Management

Nursing Associates

On the 17th December 2015, Health Minister Ben Gummer announced a plan to create a new nursing support role. This proposed new role is part of the NHS Bursary reform and nurse education plan.

Provisionally called nursing associates, it is proposed that they will work alongside healthcare support workers and fully qualified nurses, and focus on on patient care. The role has been recommended by nursing leaders and other healthcare professionals, with the aim of bridging the gap between healthcare support workers who have a care certificate, and registered nurses.

This proposal, currently out for consultation, seeks comments on amongst other things, the principle of the new role, the anticipated benefits to the wider workforce and perhaps more importantly to registered nurses, what the role is not.

The Principles of the Proposed New Role

  • Firmly grounded in direct care provision working with patients, families and carers within communities
  • Able to deliver care in a range of settings
  • Able to work across a range of population groups and conditions to a defined level of  competence with a greater emphasis on community and public health perspectives
  • Aware of their boundaries of competence and expertise
  • Able to work within multidisciplinary teams

The anticipated benefits to the wider nursing and care workforce are seen as:

  • Freeing up Registered Nurse capacity to concentrate on expert patient care, with time for high quality preparation, interaction, communications, planning and assessment, raising their status and enhancing the patient experience
  • Recognising the importance of career progression for Care Assistants (working with the professional regulators to develop a career progression pathway for the current workforce into an undergraduate nursing programme which, if approved, would allow for recognition of accreditation of prior learning thereby enabling an accelerated route from a Nursing Associate to Registered Nurse)
  • Widening of the nursing career framework enabling progression from apprenticeship to senior nurse level, with opportunities to step “off and on”
  • A flexible and portable skill-set that enables care provision across health and care settings.

Parameters of the role

It is anticipated that the proposed Nursing Associate will have core competencies and skills to support care delivery across health and social care settings. The proposed scope of practice is focused on the delivery of the fundamental aspects of direct care. Its purpose is to improve standards of care, offer a new route into nursing and provide a higher skilled worker to enhance the current workforce.

The Nursing Associate will work under the leadership of the Registered Nurse.

Nurse Associates will not:

  • Independently review patient treatment plans, measure or evaluate progress to make decisions on patient care
  • Lead or design the care planning process
  • Manage or oversee care interventions
  • Provide clinical expertise

Individual NHS employers will decide how many nursing associates they need irequire. However, subject to the outcome of the consultation, it is anticipated that up to 1,000 nursing associates could be trained from 2016.

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.

The document is available at: https://hee.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Nursing%20Associate%20consultation%20document.pdf

Your views can be given at: https://healtheducationyh.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/nursing-associate-consultation