An assessment of whether nursing associates should be regulated or not is being carried out by the body that oversees the work of the Nursing and Midwifery Council and other professional regulators, following a request by government officials.
According to NMC council papers published last week, the outcome of the assessment “will inform a ministerial decision about regulation of nursing associates later in the year”.
“The DH asked the Professional Standards Authority to provide advice on whether and how the new role of nursing associates might be regulated”
Nursing Times understands the Professional Standards Authority was asked to carry out the assessment by the Department of Health based on a draft version of the scope of practice for the forthcoming role, which was developed over the summer by Health Education England.
The PSA’s assessment is based on a new risk assessment approach that the body has developed, but it was unable to provide any details to Nursing Times about what this approach entailed.
In addition, the PSA is also looking at whether physician associates – another relatively new role that has already been brought in to support doctors – should be regulated.
The nursing associate role, which is designed to bridge the gap between healthcare assistants and nurses, will be introduced at some health and care organisations in January when it will be tested.
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At an NMC council meeting yesterday, it was revealed that the PSA was originally due to report on its findings to the DH by September.
NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith told the council meeting that the PSA was being “pressed” and it was now expected that “something would emerge in the next couple of weeks”.
A spokesman for the PSA said: ”The Department of Health asked the Professional Standards Authority to provide advice on whether and how the new role of nursing associates might be regulated.
“The PSA has worked with HEE and the NMC over the summer and consulted with officials in the four UK governments. A report is being prepared for the Department of Health,” he said.
He added that the PSA’s new approach to assessing occupational risk would be be published in early October.
As revealed earlier this week, the number of nursing associates trained in the first phase of the new role’s introduction is set to be doubled under plans being drawn up by HEE.
When the new role was first announced at the end of last year, the government said it expected 1,000 people to be selected for training by the end of 2016, with programmes beginning early next year.
Nursing Times has learnt that the programme will now be expanded to allow 2,000 people to be trained as part of this initial pilot phase.