There has been “strong support” for the government’s proposed new “nursing associate” role to be regulated but introducing enhanced qualifications and clinical governance for it could be enough to ensure public protection, according to a consultation on the position launched today.
The consultation noted statutory regulation of the role – which is aimed at bridging the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses – could give the public confidence “at time when functions previously undertaken by registered professionals are being transferred to nursing associates”.
“This new role will help build the capacity and capability of the health and social care workforce”
However, it said other measures such as local and national guidelines, improved qualifications and clinical governance should be considered – as should voluntary regulation.
It also noted that if statutory regulation were introduced and nursing associates were registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council this would incur a cost for the individual from registration fees.
The consultation, published today by national workforce planning body Health Education England, said: “Decisions about whether to regulate new roles should be based on an assessment of the risks posed, taking into account the other measures in place to shape and specify practice.”
Speaking ahead of the consultation, NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith called for ministers and HEE to be transparent over whether it would be regulated. “I think there’s a risk in the title nursing associate of misleading the public if that role is not regulated,” she told Nursing Times.
Called Building capacity to care and capability to treat – a new team member for health and social care: Consultation, the document asks for views on the principles of practice for the new role, whether the provisional title of “nursing associate” is appropriate and the aspects of service it would cover.
It also asks whether this new part of the workforce should be regulated and if so by whom.
“This new enhanced role can assist, strengthen and complement the care given by graduate registered nurses”
The proposed scope of practice for the new position would be focused on the delivery of the fundamental aspects of direct care, said Health Education England.
Those in the post would not be able to independently review patient treatment plans, measure or evaluate progress to make decisions on patient care or lead or design the care planning process, it added.
They would also be unable to manage or oversee care interventions or provide clinical expertise. Nursing associates would work under the leadership of registered nurses, it confirmed.
Launching the consultation today, HEE chief executive Ian Cumming said: “There is wide support across the NHS for the principle of a new role that supports registered nurses.
“We are now inviting stakeholders and other interested groups to help us with the specific details, such as the scope of the role and education and training requirements.
“I believe that this new role will help build the capacity and capability of the health and social care workforce and allow high quality care to be delivered to a diverse and ageing population,” he added.
Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, director of nursing at HEE, said: “We need a new type of care worker with a higher skillset who can deliver person-centred care in all health and social care settings.
“This new enhanced role can assist, strengthen and complement the care given by graduate registered nurses,” she said. “In addition it will create a career pathway that offers progression opportunities and gives job satisfaction to those who want to develop themselves in this important profession.”
Earlier this week, as part of a new drive on public sector apprenticeships, the government reiterated that it expected up to 1,000 people to start training as nursing associates from this year.
Ministers confirmed plans to create the role in December, after the move was exclusively revealed by Nursing Times in November.
The consultation period will end on 11 March.