Health Education England has stated that it will be quick to introduce a second wave of 1,000 nursing associates next year and that it might consider introducing a standard colour uniform for the role across the country.
The workforce planning body confirmed last week that a total of 2,000 nursing associates would be trained during the piloting phase of the role, with the first 1,000 beginning the two-year programme in December at 11 test sites across the country.
At an HEE board meeting yesterday, the body’s director of nursing Lisa Bayliss-Pratt outlined the plans for training the second group. She said this cohort would be selected during February and March, and begin training at another set of sites across the country in April.
The new sites would be chosen from remaining groups of universities and employers who made the original 48 applications to pilot the role, she said.
Professor Bayliss-Pratt also told the meeting that a national job description for nursing associates was being developed with the NHS Employers organisation. She said this would stop any variation in the way the role was used and ensure consistent payscales for those working in the job.
“We really want this to be a generic caring individual that will look after people from preconception to end of life”
The scope of practice and curriculum for training the role are still due to be finalised, but Professor Bayliss-Pratt said nursing associates would support prevention, and also help to care for people with both long-term conditions and those experiencing acute episodes of care.
“We really want this to be a generic caring individual that will look after people from preconception to end of life,” she said.
“So, we’re not putting them into silos from day one into mental health or learning disability or children’s nursing because we think this needs to have a broad base generic introduction into a career in nursing and care,” she told the board meeting.
When asked by HEE chair Keith Pearson how the role of nursing associates would be communicated to the public, Professor Bayliss-Pratt indicated that she favoured using a standard colour for their uniforms.
She told the meeting she was “going to be a little bit controversial and dare to suggest whether we should think about uniforms that all have the same colour across the country”.
“Assuming we start to see the benefits of this soon….we will be moving very quickly towards rolling this out”
She also hinted that the introduction of the role could be used to help reduce the wide number of titles currently given to healthcare assistants and support workers.
When asked what proportion of trainees were expected to be existing healthcare support workers, she said it was “too early to tell”, but that there needed to be a balance between existing and new staff.
HEE chief executive Ian Cumming added that if existing HCAs, who wanted to train to be nursing associates, could demonstrate they already had the competencies then they would be able to complete the programme in less than two years.
But he also noted that, during the pilot, there needed to be a mixture of people in order to fully evaluate the entire programme.
Professor Cumming said earlier in the meeting that the body was “completely blown away” by the quality and number of applications from organisations to become pilot sites, which had led to double the number of training places being confirmed.
He said that “assuming we start to see the benefits of this soon”, then “we will be moving very quickly towards rolling this out through apprentice funding”.