Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Jeremy Hunt asks NMC to regulate new nursing associate role


The Nursing and Midwifery Council has been asked by the government to regulate nursing associates, the health secretary has announced today.

In a speech to NHS employers, he said that because those in the new role will be able to administer medicines, a “stronger regime of assurance” will be necessary to ensure safe and effective clinical practice.

“Statutory professional regulation is a necessary and proportionate requirement for this important new role”

Jeremy Hunt

He said that statutory professional regulation is a “necessary and proportionate requirement” for this “important new role,” which requires a significant level of judgment to be applied in practice by those in the position.

However, he stressed that the new role – designed to bridge the gap between healthcare assistants and nurses in England – will not replace nurses, but will support them.

He said nursing associates will help to free up nurses so they can spend more time using their more specialist training to focus on clinical duties and to take more of a lead in decisions about patient care.

The announcement brings to an end several months of speculation over whether the new role would be regulated and, if so, by which body.

The NMC has previously stated to Nursing Times that it would be able to take on the additional regulatory task, but the final decision lay with the Department of Health.

Meanwhile, England’s four most senior nurses recently backed statutory regulation for nursing associates, but a review published last week by super-regulator the Professional Standards Authority proved largely inconclusive on the issue.

Earlier this year, Health Education England – the body responsible for developing the role – announced 1,000 nursing associates will begin a two-year training programme at 11 test sites across England from January, with a further 1,000 expected to follow in April.

The associates will train through an apprenticeship that will in the future be able to count towards a nursing degree.

“Nursing associates are not there to replace registered nurses but to support and complement them,” the health secretary said.

NHS England

Bursary removal is ‘uncharted territory’, says CNO

Jane Cummings

“But I have listened carefully to what has been said and agree that, on balance, statutory professional regulation is a necessary and proportionate requirement for this important new role,” he added.

Reacting to the speech, NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said: “There is strong support for the nursing associate role and the Department of Health has today decided that it is a role which requires regulation.

“As an organisation we are well equipped to take on the role of the regulator, however, this decision will be made by our council at its meeting 25 January,” she said.

In response to the announcement, Professor Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, said: “The nursing associate role has clear potential to improve patient care. 

“It is important that it acts as a stepping stone to becoming a graduate registered nurse,” she said.

“By asking the NMC to regulate the role, the secretary of state is establishing a clear pathway for aspiring nurses, through education and training, supported by regulation that can give confidence to patients and employers that this will be an important role in our NHS workforce of the future,” said the CNO.

“The secretary of state is establishing a clear pathway for aspiring nurses”

Jane Cummings

RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said: “We welcome the announcement that the Nursing and Midwifery Council will oversee the professional regulation of the proposed nursing associate role.”

Mr Hunt made the announcement this morning as part of a keynote speech at the NHS Providers conference in Birmingham, where he also provided further details about degree-level nurse apprenticeships.

He confirmed that degree-level nurse apprenticeships are expected to begin from September, with up to 1,000 aspiring nurses training via this route in the NHS every year once programmes have been fully established.


Readers' comments (9)

  • Bye bye nursing. I'm curious, how must would a nurse associate would pay to be regulated? If it is less than the £120 I pay then I'm changing roles. Anyone with me?
    Does it include less stress, less management bullying me, less thought about targets eg "patient has 5 minutes until they breach why didn't that patient go to the discharge lounge"? oops didn't I tell you that the patient has developed a temperature and a low BP. Please tell me I would no longer have to deal with this type of situation then I'm changing roles STAT!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The NMC have been given a poisoned chalice.

    Here is what the regulator of all regulators (the Professional Standards Agency-PSA) said recently about the role of the associate nurse:

    "At the time of writing, the scope of the role of Nursing Associate has not been defined to the level that is needed to assess the risks of harm, and data about the spread of the workforce across different settings were not available. A curriculum for training has not yet been finalised. We therefore cannot currently offer objective advice on the type of oversight or assurance that will ultimately be needed for this new workforce. " (PSA, 2016)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Since nurses have never been able to make up their mind or convince others what precisely we are and do we have brought about our own demise. The Council of Deans wanted this and the RCN were incapable of fighting it because many older nurses were too blind to see that by introducing something less than a nurse of course the Government would say "yes please we will have loads of them" Not Nurses, Not professionals Not going to cause trouble. Look at the staffing composition of hospitals in USA and South Africa - the nurse will be the only nurse on duty. Well done us.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is the nursing profession going full circle. Surely, It appears that this is the old Enrolled Nurse bring reinvented under a different guise?...
    I have never understood why you suddenly needed a degree to be a RGN just a caring, capable relatively well educated individual. Successive governments have done so little to nurture the best health service there is on the world and I agree we have brought about our own demise.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The question comes again and again why do you need a degree to be a nurse, the answer is you do not. The problem we know have is people whom are qualified degree status nurses the basically cannot nurse.
    The nursing profession should re address its training make robust and sustainable and move away from the University mentality that is taking over. I qualified as an RMN in 1990 after having excellent training in a school of nursing and worked on the coal face of the wards. I have been successful during my career without he need for a degree.
    Time to address the university mentality we have in the UK now and focus on practical skill base. Bring back common sense

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Having worked recently with 2 students I was so disheartened and disappointed when they both told me in different ways that once you've learnt to wash someone in the 1st year on elderly care why are they putting you back on the same ward in the 2nd year to do the same when they need to learn how to be a nurse and not a HCA!! I explained that this was one of the most important parts of nursing where you generally learn so much about the patient and what to look for if people require this help. It is so sad that having a degree became the requirement and these two think they are better than our wonderful attentive HCA's. I have spoken to the University as was upset with attitude despite happy smiley presentation they are only interested in drug rounds and doing IV's. If this is what it's come to I'm happy to look at these alternative ways of training and see if the right people are employed from day 1 with a heart and happy to work hard.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I trust the NMC will give APs the opportunity to revalidate.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Its not about having a degree...we can argue that old chestnut till the proverbial cows come home...the bottom line is professional accountability...e.g. the NMC say as a nurse (professionally) I should render assistance inside or outside of work (legally in the UK unless that person is my patient or I have caused the problem...knocked them off their bike in my car...then legally I don't have to do anything)....but professionally the NMC expects me to do something with in the bounds of safety and my competence...or they could take me to task should I be reported...what if any professionalism would be expected of the associate role?....I am waiting with breath baited to see what the NMC comes up with....I suspect it will be left to the employer via contract of employment to say what misdemeanours constitute disciplinary action

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Nursing Associates is a positive way forward considering the old SEN roles were abolished without alternative replacements; this inadvertently created more pressure upon RGNs. So this is a good and positive way forward.

    The new "Nursing Associate Role (NA)" contains 8 domains on the below link: Framework Nursing Associate.pdf

    HOWEVER, I have identified 2 problems already such as...... (a) there is no anatomy and physiology and clinical observations in-depth training that should be a fundamental core component in all 3 areas that the "NA" is expected to work in. Not all 3 areas of work placements will have the same job descriptions, so there should be structured core elements in this arena that is universal for every employer who employs an "NA"..

    (b) the 3 areas of work experience for "NA`s" fails to include "Domiciliary Care Agencies" or "Residential Care Homes" that is ultimately responsible for a lot of NHS Hospital admissions for patients over the age of 65 years, but the Government allege that they want to integrate the "Health & Social Care" that could potentially save millions but more importantly save lives that are unnecessarily admitted to Hospitals..............The introduction of "Nursing Associate (NA) role" & "Assistant Practitioner’s (AP) role" fails to improve areas of care within the social domain that proves to be the weakest link that creates horrendously high NHS expenditure due to delivery of poor care caused by lack of training in social care.

    My other concern is that the DoH (Jeremy Hunt) has appointed the "Nursing Midwifery Council (NMC)" to regulate The new "Nursing Associate Role (NA)" but NMC seem to overspend up to 75% of the registrants` income on FtP cases when this should only be 45%........ The NMC fails to acknowledge any whistleblowers irrespective of the Robert Francis Report (290 recommendations, 6 x C`s and the 20 principles)............. NO ONE can investigate the NMC if they are unfair, perverse, unfounded, bias or wrong...............

    (a) - PSA can only investigate the NMC if they are too lenient but cannot investigate if they are the opposite.......... In fact, the PSA informed me I was the only complainant but question this
    (b) - the Privy Council will not investigate the NMC regardless of individual or collective cases........
    (c) - the Department of Health allege it would not be appropriate for them to become involved in individual cases.
    (d) - The NMC can NOW serve a WARNING against a nurse or midwife without them having a right to a fair hearing under Article 6 ECHR and will publish this for 12 months - even though this breaches Article 6. .....ONLY 32 NMC REGISTRANTS` responded to the DoH consultation document..WHY?
    (e) - NO ONE HAS THE POWERS OR THE INTENT ON INVESTIGATING THE NMC...... Any complaints about the NMC must be raised to the NMC ........ BUT once one has exhausted NMC complaints route at stage 3, they can the refuse to ignore answering core components of registrants` complaints...........That is the end of the matter............ So we are advised by: (a) PSA....... (b) Privy Council..... (c) DoH complain to the perpetrator (NMC) to investigate themselves, who will always deny and refuse accountability.............. Many NMC registrants` have lost their livelihoods, careers, reputation, committed suicide, financial losses and friends BUT it seems to be accepted by the majority............

    HOWEVER, DoH are now appointing the NMC to regulate the new "Nursing Associate Role (NA)" which CONCERNS me A LOT .... what will it take for the average of 700,000 odd NMC registrants in the UK to react and protect their innocent colleagues who have been unfairly treated, especially after whistleblowing against their employers (equates to 45% of NMC referrals)...... NO wonder majority of Nursing Times responses are anonymous............. I understand this now

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.