Advanced healthcare assistants are ‘no substitute’ for registered nurses, according to the organisation charged with ensuring the NHS workforce has a suitable skill mix.
Skills for Health director of workforce strategy Andrew Butcher’s comments will be welcomed by those concerned that nurses are being replaced with cheaper assistant practitioners placed at band four in the Agenda for Changepay framework.
Mr Butcher was speaking to Nursing Times after Skills for Health launched new core standards for assistant practitioners, the generic term for band four staff.
He said: “They [assistant practitioners] aren’t a substitute for nurses. They can’t do everything that a nurse does. What a staff nurse used to do can’t be done by one of the APs.”
Assistant practitioners work in a variety of areas such as stroke, district nursing, podiatry, radiography and mental health.
The six standards cover areas such as recruitment, education and training and the level of supervision they are required to work under.
Mr Butcher said supervision of these roles would not be “onerous”.
The Skills for Health document says assistant practitioners may work under distant guidance or work as lone workers.
Where appropriate, they should supervise others, take some responsibility for training and in some cases carry out training themselves.
Mr Butcher said they would carry out tasks such as taking blood pressure and carrying out observations, freeing up other professionals to take on more advanced roles.
He said: “Nurses need to know how to do all these things but don’t need to be doing it all.”
The roles could be seen as a “stepping stone” to a nursing career, he said. Training should take two years and result in a foundation degree or diploma.