The head of the Royal College of Nursing has called on the profession to support nursing associates to go on to train as registered nurses, even if the government initiative is dropped in the future.
It would be a “terrible disaster” if nursing associates were not given the opportunity to complete further training to become nurses, warned RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies.
“The only investment really that has been put in in any number is to the nursing associate [programme]”
She said such initiatives could disappear following a change of government, noting that the nursing associate training programmes were still only in the pilot phase.
It was “incumbent” on the profession to ensure nursing associates trained as nurses to help tackle “dire” staff shortages, because this was the route into the profession that had been given most investment, she said.
“We are all responsible for this, to make sure nursing associates get that opportunity to develop,” Ms Davies told a group of nurses at a conference at the University of Salford earlier this week.
“That’s perhaps where my worry is: once people are focussed on numbers they forget actually that some of these people are coming in because they want to be registered nurses – and it would be a terrible disaster if that is not offered to them,” she said.
“We are all responsible for this, to make sure nursing associates get that opportunity to develop”
Speaking to Nursing Times later, Ms Davies said: “In general, initiatives can come and be very successful, and then you have a change of government and it disappears and something else is in its place.
“We need more registered nurses and it’s one of the routes in,” she said. “The only investment really that has been put in in any number is to the nursing associate [programme], so we need to make sure it stays as a route into nursing and not [only] as an alternative [role].”
Ms Davies was speaking on Tuesday at the Future of nursing conference, where delegates discussed how nursing profession will meet demands of Brexit, an ageing population and a dwindling workforce.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, the Nursing and Midwifery Council released an early draft version of its competency standards for nursing associates at the end of last year, but it is not expected to launch a full consultation until spring – or finalise them until the autumn.
Nursing associates trained through pilot sites will be able to join the register under interim arrangements, but the NMC has yet to confirm whether apprentices will be able to do so under the same measures. Under Department of Health proposals, appprentices may instead have to sit a test to gain entry to the register.
There are currently around 2,000 people involved in testing the new role – which sits between a healthcare assistant and registered nurse – at employers across the country.
A total of 65 universities are expected to apply for approval to run nursing associate programmes over the course of the next academic year, according to the NMC.
- Over 60 universities expected to seek NMC approval for training nursing associates
- First 2,500 nursing associate apprenticeships to start by spring
- Draft nursing associate standards released ‘to adjust training’
- NMC sets out interim measures for regulating nursing associates