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HEE may consider 'same colour' uniforms for nursing associates across the country


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”

Lisa Bayliss-Pratt

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”

Ian Cumming

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”.



Readers' comments (10)

  • wow a standardised uniform!What about LD,MH units?Not a nurse (but crucially they are not) unless your wearing a dress and why not bring those nice caps back as well.

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  • Silo? People with enduring mental health needs, Learning problems, children and adolescence, Senior care, are all going to be cared for after a generic training? Notice the word caring - does that apply to other Health care professions- surgeons must be caring, speech therapists must be caring, dentists must be caring.. You need a strong value and knowledge base evidently.

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  • Where are we able to all for this role??

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  • Are they going to do any work ? or are they going to be a watered down qualified nurse who has needed A levels to enter university. What qualifications are they going to need? or once again like lots of band 3 and 4 on the wards are they just going to be in with the click as a HCA and walk into the role.

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  • HEE are desperate to find a role. Oh well, perhaps the days of the NHS are numbered.

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  • These statements on the 'second wave' of the so-called ‘new’ nursing associate role by ‘Dr Pratt’ (sic) shows the extremely poor leadership which is now driving the UK nursing profession into ever more dangerous waters. To re-institute this old 'SEN' role without any set of competencies, and without any clear idea of exactly how this 'new' role is to be regulated, appears not only incompetent but highly dangerous for public safety and will likely devalue the profession. However, instead of concentrating on those important issues and getting those clarified, Dr Pratt & Co seem more concerned with creating national uniforms. All of this is happening at the time of the NMC is talking about the 'graduate registered nurse', a slippery concept since one level registration through a graduate-only route was what we were sold when nursing became an ‘all graduate entry’ profession, further implying there could be ‘other types’ of RNs who are not necessarily ‘graduates’ – so possibly paving the way to opening up the market to apprenticeship training providers. No other profession (like medicine or law) would enact such a shaky development that potentially places the public at risk, and will likely result in the reduction in the numbers of RNs in the workforce, all in the push to save money by opening the door to cost-saving employers who will employ less numbers of RNs. The Professional Standards Authority has yet to rule on whether this new ‘SEN’ even requires ‘regulation’ by something like the NMC, or whether existing mechanisms of light-touch risk assessment are adequate enough so the Department of Health can relinquish light-touch regulation to the market e.g. the employing NHS trusts and other care providers who just blame the RN workforce when any mistakes are made. All of the existing research shows that the more RNs in the workforce produce better patient outcomes, an important fact which the HEE’s ‘Dr Pratt’ and others, like the CNO, who have pushed for this 'new' role appear to publicly ignore (or perhaps they’ve not read the research?). The universities (‘Council of Deans’ - CoD) are also culpable here because in order to capitalise their current estate and staff costs they are playing along with HEE by taking training funds for this ‘new’ SEN role whilst simultaneously agreeing to the bursary cuts. The CoD are now realising just how those cuts will significantly reduce their undergraduate nursing students, and therefore the universities’ income from undergraduate nursing students will be negatively affected. Therefore, capitalising on the 'new' SEN role today will help them meet their expected cash shortfall. So the universities will gain, or keep steady state, whilst the nursing profession is diluted and the employed numbers as well as the terms and conditions of RNs will increasingly become eroded. Sounds like a good deal for the profession, eh? But at least the new ‘SENs’ may get a national uniform through this type of professional regulation by the backdoor from the Department of Health.

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  • Well said Kevin.

    You couldn't really make it up could you .

    A serious debate is required about this role yet uniform policy seems the most important factor. Could that be because senior nurses have not got a clue how the role will be defined.

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  • The emphasis on the term "graduate registered nurse" should be ringing alarm bells for the many thousands of diploma nurses working in the NHS. Hands up who remembers clinical grading in the late 80s? Downgrading each and every one of them from a band 5 to a 4 could be a very attractive proposition to a cash strapped trust notwithstanding that the associate nurse qualification is one step below a nursing degree but, significantly, a step above a nursing diploma...

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  • The Nurse Associate or Assistant Practitioner role is not a new concept it is a Foundation Degree obtained from a 2 year course at a University and was very hard to do.. It consisted of 12 modules over the 2 years including OSCES, presentations, exams and essay work.. I know as I did it! The role is supposed to enhance the skills of the healthcare assistant or support worker and was developed to assist the Registered Nurse with tasks that Band 2 or 3 health care/support workers could not do. However there a lot of a "grey areas" the role is not fully understood and does not have a generic job description. The role however is not regulated by any governing body and this was its downfall.. Not one person knew what I could or could not do within this role. This made working within limitations difficult as some Nurses thought we could check controlled drugs etc which of course we were not allowed to do. I went back to University at the end of my 2 year post as an Assisitant Practitioner or Nurse Associate or whatever other title we were given and as I was seconded. I went on from that to complete the Nursing Degree and I qualified in March this year. It was a really good stepping stone as I knew what the university expected and had a wealth of health care experience behind me as I also completed my NVQ 2 and 3 which is an entry requirement for the Foundation Degree. So no I was not a cheap nurse but I did become frustrated by the role mainly due to the lack of understanding by all health professionals as to what the role actually was supposed to be about.

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  • Well done anonymous (above) ! Your story shows exactly how these ancillary roles have not been well thought out but have arisen due to political 'quick fixes' to arrest the shortage of care staff. However, instead of getting to the root of the problem (train and retain more RNs) all these short term solutions achieve is more confusion and greater uncertainty.

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