A new nursing associate role that bridges the gap between healthcare assistants and registered nurses has been confirmed, after the consultation findings were published today.
Health Education England, which led the six-week consultation, reiterated there was a real “appetite” for the role among the profession but that it would not be a substitute for increasing the supply of nurses.
“This new role has the potential to transform the nursing and care workforce”
Five workshops will now take place in England in July for HEE to develop its scope of practice. Test sites will recruit 1,000 students to start training in 2017.
Respondents said nursing associates would benefit patients, provided safety was prioritised in developing the role, according to the report on the consultation findings, called Building Capacity to Care and Capability to Treat: A new team member for Health and Social Care in England.
However, the consultation - which recevied 1,384 responses overall including more than 1,100 individuals - noted there were “some concerns” the role would undermine or substitute nurses, potentially leave them with less contact time with patients.
According to the report, an “overwhelming majority” – of 761 respondents – said they wanted to see statutory regulation of nursing associates, while around 240 said it should just be registered.
“I am hugely encouraged that after a thorough examination of the new nursing associate role, the green light to go ahead has been given”
Of those who wanted full regulation, 581 said the Nursing and Midwifery Council should be the responsible body.
“Those advocating regulation identified a number of benefits, including patient safety, public reassurance, accountability, professional credibility and protection of the new professionals.
“The administration of medicines – seen as a key aspect of the role by many - was given as a further reason,” said the report.
It added that the decision on whether to regulate the role would be made once the knowledge, skills and competencies of nursing associates had been confirmed.
“If once this is defined, NHS Improvement, NHS England, HEE and the NMC assess there are risks to patient safety, they will consider the appropriate level of regulation (if any) and HEE will work with the Department of Health to take this forward,” it said.
Meanwhile, the majority of respondents said nursing associates should sit at band 4 within the Agenda for Change pay scale.
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However, some said current financial restraints meant funding for the role would not be available, while others described the proposed new role as a cost-saving exercise.
The report said a number of respondents wanted lessons to be learnt from the former State Enrolled Nurse (SEN) role in developing nursing associates, noting SENs were often left without equal access to career opportunities.
There was support for the role’s training to lead to a nationally recognised qualification, with a defined scope of practice “mapped to the pre-registration nursing standards”.
Training was generally recommended to be to “level five” – which is the same level as a foundation degree, and there was in general support for this to be provided through an apprenticeship.
The consultation findings were announced by Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, HEE’s director of nursing and deputy director of education and quality, who had previously indicated there were positive views on the role.
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In a statement today, she said: “Our consultation has shown that there is a real appetite for this role, which we firmly believe can provide a real benefit to the nursing and care workforce across a range of settings and play a key role in the delivery of patient care with safety at its heart.”
“This new role has the potential to transform the nursing and care workforce – making sure the role has a clear entry and progression point will be crucial in its development,” she added.
“We do need to protect what we value across the nursing and care profession but we also need to collectively agree that we can’t always hold on to what we have done in the past – change is inevitable,” she said.
‘We aim to ensure nurses get the best education and training’
Health minister Ben Gummer said: “This new role will enhance patient care and open up a career in nursing for thousands of people, as well as providing opportunities for existing staff who want to progress to become registered nurses. “
Lord Willis of Knaresborough, who first recommended the new role in his Shape of Caring review of nursing training and education last year, said: “I am hugely encouraged that after a thorough examination of the new nursing associate role the green light to go ahead has been given.
“There is a crucial need to create a seamless nursing and care staffing structure which will enhance patient safety and patient outcomes across both health and care structures,” he said. “We must now move swiftly to make this role a reality and a success.”