A new scheme for healthcare assistants to train as band 4 assistant practitioners is being tested at an NHS trust in Yorkshire.
A group of 27 band 2 and 3 HCAs have started the 18-month degree-level programme since January, according to Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“The aim… is to have staff working at a higher level than an HCA and who will take an active part of the multi-disciplinary team”
Once they have complete the course, trainees will qualify with a diploma in healthcare and will be employed by the trust to support staff on specialist wards, those looking after older patients with muscular and skeletal conditions, and in clinical departments across its three main sites – Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Bassetlaw Hospital and Montagu Hospital.
They will also, in future, be able to go on to train as registered nurses in two years, instead of the usual three it takes to complete a nursing degree.
Those behind the scheme, which is being run in partnership with Sheffield College, said the programme had been developed to help “bridge” the skills gap between an experienced HCA and a registered nurse.
The scheme is being jointly funded by the trust and national workforce body Health Education England, as part of a wider AP training programme in the region.
“Introducing this new role is a stepping stone to nurse training with a recognised qualification”
HEE has also this year launched its nursing associate pilot scheme across England – which is, similarly, aimed at bridging the gap between HCAs and nurses, but through a completely new role.
However, the trust confirmed to Nursing Times that its assistant practitioner scheme was separate to the national nursing associate pilot, noting its own course had been finalised first.
“We are very pleased to be part of this collaborative venture. The aim of which is to have staff working at a higher level than a healthcare assistant and who will take an active part of the multi-disciplinary team within the ward,” said Cindy Storer, head of nursing and quality for the trust’s muscular skeletal and frailty care group.
“Introducing this new role is a stepping stone to nurse training with a recognised qualification and confirms our commitment to invest in all grades of staff,” she added.