The Nursing and Midwifery Council has been told by parts of the profession that a change to the code may be required to ensure nurses are clear about delegation to nursing associates.
The NMC’s director of education, Geraldine Walters, has said that, as part of its work in preparation for regulating nursing associates, the body had started by looking at how far the NMC’s code for nurses and midwives could be applied to the new role.
“We need to understand whether it’s the registrant we are holding to account for the delegation of tasks or the nursing associate”
“So, will it be the same code as for nurses and midwives, will it be completely different, or is it similar but perhaps with some amendments?” she told the NMC’s latest council meeting last week, noting that a final decision would only be made after a public consultation.
Discussions so far with the pilot sites testing out trainee associates had led to suggestions by some that “a lot of the code is relevant – but it may need some amendments”, she said.
NMC council member Ruth Walker later suggested that an important part of the NMC’s work would be to clarify what level of responsibility, authority and accountability associates had – rather than just stating the tasks they should be able to complete.
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“That’s particularly relevant in the context of delegation,” said Ms Walker, who is executive nurse director at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.
“We need to understand whether it’s the registrant we are holding to account for the delegation of tasks or the nursing associate in their own right,” she said.
In response, Ms Walters noted that the issue of delegation – and a potential change to the nurse’s code – had been put forward during early discussions with pilot sites.
“When we are looking at the code…. [and] a few comments have been made about should there be an amendment to the code – the amendments are more in the sphere of delegation for the registered nurse, rather than changing the code for the nursing associate,” she said.
In an interview with Nursing Times following the meeting, NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith stressed it would be down to the regulator’s council to decide whether there should be separate codes for nurses and associates, and if there should be any amendment to the existing one for registrants.
She said a potential change to the current code in response to concerns about delegation would be “up for discussion”.
“We wouldn’t say here is the solution. We would look at pros and cons – [and then the decision] is entirely up to the council,” she said.
The NMC will begin drawing up professional standards for the new nursing associate role this summer, with a formal consultation on the standards and code planned for the spring.
Around 2,000 associates began training at pilot organisations in England at the start of this year, with the first cohort due to complete programmes in January 2019.