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Leaders of nurse regulator agree to regulate new nursing associate role


The Nursing and Midwifery Council is to regulate nursing associates, after the body’s council agreed to accept the government’s request to enter the new role on its register.

The Department of Health announced in November that it had asked the NMC to regulate the new post, which has been developed in England to “bridge” the gap between healthcare assistants and nurses.

The NMC has now formally agreed to a request from the Department of Health to be the regulator for the new nursing associate role. At a meeting this morning, NMC council members discussed the risks and benefits of agreeing to the request.

In NMC papers released last week, the body said it would need the government to pay £4m to set up regulation for nursing associates or else there was a risk its other programmes of work, including its revision of nurse education standards.

The UK regulator also noted that because only England planned to introduce the new role at the moment, it would create a different workforce structure across different parts of the country.

However, it also said that having one body regulating both nurses and nursing associates would make it easier to align education and practice standards where required, and point out the differences between them as necessary.

In the council papers, the NMC also stressed that, while associates were being brought in to deal with “urgent” workforce shortages, if it were to regulate the role it would have to be given the final say over how quickly it was entered onto its register.

It warned that this could take up to two years, due to the legislation changes required. Previously, nursing leaders have criticised the plans for being rushed.

Nt editorial jackie smith

Nt editorial jackie smith

Jackie Smith

Commenting on today’s decision, Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar, said: “After a thoughtful and thorough discussion, the NMC’s council has agreed to a request from the Department of Health to be the regulator for the new nursing associate role.

“The council recognised that there is strong support for the regulation of nursing associates and I have always maintained that the public would expect any role with nursing in the title to be regulated,” she said.

“As an organisation, we are well-equipped to regulate nursing associates and this is a positive endorsement of our progress,” said Ms Smith.

She added: “We will continue to work closely with stakeholders, including the Department of Health and Health Education England, to ensure the successful development and implementation of this new role.”

Responding to the NMC’s decision, health minister Philip Dunne said: “Robust professional regulation is important, so patients can continue to be confident they are receiving high quality care and I am delighted with today’s decision by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

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Phillip Dunne

“The introduction of the nursing associate role is key to strengthening the future NHS workforce and we look forward to working with them and other key stakeholders to ensure that appropriate safeguards are put in place for this new profession,” he added.

Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, director of nursing and national deputy director of education and quality at the workforce planning body Health Education England, welcomed the NMC’s decision.

“This is an important step in the journey for this exciting new role,” she said. “Our consultation showed that there was strong support for regulation and we have always been very clear that regulation is something that we are in favour of.”

She added: “The role will establish a clear pathway for aspiring nurses, through education and training and supported by regulation it will give confidence to patients and employers that it is an important part of the NHS workforce.”

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Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The NMC’s decision to regulate nursing associates is a very positive step forward. A regulated support staff means nurses can delegate some tasks with confidence to nursing associates.

“We are calling on the government to fund the NMC to undertake this task as the cost cannot be placed on current registrants,” she added.

“The nursing associate role is an opportunity to provide support to nurses and improve care,” said Ms Davies. ”But it’s vital that despite the financial pressures, NHS trusts do not replace registered nurses with nursing associates to save on costs.”

Responding to the NMC’s decision to regulate nursing associates, Professor Dame Jessica Corner, chair of the Council of Deans of Health, said: “We welcome the NMC’s recognition of the difficulties involved in a UK-wide body regulating an England-only workforce role.

“It will be for each of the home nations to decide whether or not to include nursing associates in their health and social care workforce,” she noted.

She added: “Many uncertainties remain about the responsibilities and scope of the nursing associate role. Now that a decision has been taken on regulation we look forward to working with the NMC to help it define educational standards and practical competencies for nursing associates.

“We have been clear that nursing associates must not be used as a substitute for registered nurses and we expect the competencies for nursing associates to reflect the difference between the two roles,” she said.

More than 1,000 nursing associate trainees have begun programmes of learning with employers and universities at 11 pilot sites across England this month. A further 1,000 will also begin training at another 24 sites in the spring.

By the end of their training, associates will have gained a “level 5” qualification, equivalent to a foundation degree.

The curriculum for the role, developed by national workforce planning body Health Education England and published in November, states that the two-year programme will include learning how to administer drugs, and calculating doses under delegation.

However, this marked a change to an earlier leaked version that attracted criticism among the profession after it stated associates would be trained to administer controlled drugs.


Readers' comments (6)

  • Just make sure they are as well trained & reliable as the old SENs If they are they will be an asset in any situation.
    If they are NVQ level 3 trained the NMC FtP hearings will be clogged up with them

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  • NMC can't even process applicants they currently have waiting registration so heaven knows how they will factor in the NA's

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  • Perhaps a better idea to the nursing shortage would be to motivate people to persue a career in nursing rather than creating a stop gap solution where vital skills will still be absence.

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  • This is likely to be used to increase our fees to the NMC again to supposedly cover the costs.
    For myself once a year I throw a sickie and regard it as my NMC payment day

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  • As an individual who works alongside an NA. I think all the comments are a disgrace and very disrespectful. You don't know how they came to this job, what commitments they have which has stopped them from reaching for their goal! For the NHS to do this and bring this out for people to help them reach their dreams is an incredible thing. The NHS wouldn't have made his course if they didn't think people deserved it! Anyone of you should be ashamed these people have tried their hardest and gotten onto this course and they should be proud!! Without bursaries people are going to stop doing the nursing courses through university as it is too expensive!! This is another option. And just shows it doesn't matter what age you are just as long as you have the experience you can get there!!! I salute you NMC for taking this on and being an amazing company for regulating this course!

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  • 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

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