Nurse leaders say they support the creation of a senior care assistant role to bridge the gap between support staff and registered nurses, insisting the move would not “dumb down” the profession.
The nursing directors, who were speaking as part of a panel session on workforce challenges at Nursing Times’ Directors’ Congress in Brighton last week, said it represented a “professional response” to the current workforce challenge.
“The reality is we have got to do something different”
Janice Stevens, interim chief nurse at Barts Health NHS Trust in London, said: “The reality is we have got to do something different. The gap between band 2 – who are trained with the care certificate and doing lots of the care – to graduates, feels to me, when you’ve to 1,000 vacancies, too big.”
She added: “I don’t know why we can’t have a well-trained person who is supporting care that is regulated and trained to a higher standard.
“That is not dumbing down our profession, it is about recognising care is complex and spans lots of needs…. We’ve got to get off our professional high horse for the sake of quality,” said Ms Stevens.
Ruth May, nurse director at regulator Monitor, said she also supported the proposal for the new role, referred to by some as the associate nurse.
“It’s not a financial issue, it’s about a professional response to a challenge we are seeing. I do support the associate nurse and I do support them being regulated,” she said.
“I think it would give them a career pathway. We’ve got some great people out there who would love to do the associate nurse role,” she added.
“We’ve got some great people out there who would love to do the associate nurse role”
Maggie Davies, deputy director of nursing at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who was also on the panel, backed the introduction of the role as well. She said: “We have to do something different. We have toy tackle it now because it’s not safe for our patients.”
As exclusively revealed by Nursing Times last week, national workforce planning body Health Education England will be piloting the role at 30 sites across the country in 2016.
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The idea for the new position was first put forward in the Shape of Caring Review earlier this year, which looked at education and training for both nurses and healthcare support workers.
However, the Royal College of Nursing said in a briefing paper earlier this month that it did not support the creation of a new role “to plug a perceived gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses”.