A total of 2,500 nursing associates are expected to begin apprenticeship training in England in the first few months of this year, followed by more in the autumn, the head of the national workforce body has said.
Last year the government announced 5,000 people would begin on programmes in 2018.
Half of the group is expected to begin by April and the remaining 2,500 will start by September 2018, Health Education England’s chief executive revealed at a meeting last month.
“There continues to be huge enthusiasm, both among aspirant trainee nursing associates but also from a very large number of employers”
Professor Ian Cumming said local workforce planning bosses and universities would be notified “imminently” about the new groups of trainees.
There are already around 2,000 people involved in testing the new role – which sits between a healthcare assistant and registered nurse – at employers across the country. Two-year work-based programmes began at the start of 2017.
This year, new trainees are expected to be taught through an apprenticeship, which will mean they need to complete an additional assessment at the end.
Professor Cumming said at the body’s latest board meeting on 12 December that employers and aspirant associates were still enthusiastic about the training.
However, he said that, while many of those already on programmes had indicated they wanted to receive additional education to become a nurse, it was unclear how far new trainees would also follow this route.
“We simply do not know how many nursing associates want to go on to become registered nurses”
“There continues to be huge enthusiasm for this, both among aspirant trainee nursing associates but also from a very large number of employers who clearly see a need for this role sitting between the healthcare support worker and the registered nurse,” said Professor Cumming.
“We simply do not know how many nursing associates want to go on to become registered nurses and how many people will remain as nursing associates,” he later said.
“We know that in the initial cohort quite a large number of people are expressing an interest in going on to registered nurse training. We anticipate that very large number will be a ‘first cohort’ issue, because we’ve attracted a lot of people who want to be nurses,” he added.
“I think as we move through the rest of the cohorts we will see a balancing out of that, of people who want to be nursing associates, but we will just have to say how that plays out,” he said.
In a recent draft workforce strategy published by HEE on behalf of national health bodies, it was estimated that out of the 45,000 nursing associates expected to have qualified by 2027, around 17,000 will have become nurses.
Currently, HEE provides funding for employers to cover associate training costs, but from 2018 employers will be expected to use a new form of apprenticeship funding – through a new levy – to pay for training.
In board papers from HEE’s meeting last month, it was revealed that HEE will provide funding for supervision and mentoring, and to help employers prepare for nursing associates.
Therese Davis, a regional lead nurse for HEE in London, will chair a group responsible for expanding the associate training programme in 2018-19, stated the board papers.