There is a “strong appetite” for the introduction of nursing associates, according to those leading consultation on the new role.
Plans to create the role, which have divided opinion, were revealed by Nursing Times last year and subsequently confirmed in a government announcement in December.
“We were talking about this role and there is a real appetite for it”
It was originally referred to as an “associate nurse” role but this was subsequently altered slightly to “nursing associate” by the Department of Health – though the precise title is yet to be set in stone.
The move is intended to bridge the gap between healthcare assistants and nurses, and create potential a new route into registered nursing. A consultation on it, spear-headed by Health Education England (HEE), has now closed and the body is in the process of analysing the results.
- Government confirms new ‘nursing associate’ role
- Exclusive: New ‘associate nurse’ role set to be created
- Exclusive: Senior HCA ‘bridging’ role will be piloted next year
HEE’s director of nursing Lisa Bayliss-Pratt told Nursing Times the early indications were there was support and enthusiasm for the concept.
“I was in Northumbria last week and the Isle of Wight and we were talking about this role and there is a real appetite for it,” she said. “But as ever the devil’s in the detail. Will it be regulated? What’s the education level of attainment? What’s its title? How does it fit with the therapy professions?”
“It has not just been a smattering of people and it certainly has not been done in a dark corner”
She said the consultation had attracted around 1,388 responses and HEE was “delighted in the level of interest”.
“From a sneak preview of who has actually responded, I am delighted to see we have got third sector involvement, royal medical colleges, the Royal College of Nursing and arm’s length body responses, as well as many individual responses from student nurses, support workers and registrants,” she said.
“That’s fantastic because it has not just been a smattering of people and it certainly has not been done in a dark corner,” she said. “The reach it has had has been really impressive.”
Analysis of consultation responses would show whether people want the role or not, she noted.
“It feels like they do, to be quite frank,” she said. “Whatever the answers are to the title, the regulation, the education attainment, how it fits with the team, there does seem to be a strong appetite.
“It’s really exciting and I can’t wait to see the findings and explore the analysis in more detail,” she told Nursing Times.
Prior to the consultation, reaction to the new role’s creation had been mixed. Many directors of nursing declared their support for the idea, while unions had warned that it must be viewed as supplementary to registered nurses, rather than as a substitute.
In a Nursing Times survey of nearly 1,000 nurses at the end of last year, 47.5% of respondents said they welcomed the role, 36% said they were unsure and 16.5% said they were opposed.
- Exclusive: Nurse directors support new assistant ‘bridging’ role
- New ‘nursing associate’ role receives cautious welcome from unions
- Creation of new associate nurse role backed by most registrants
Dr Bayliss-Pratt also said the HEE consultation had “shone a light” on some key questions for the nursing profession, including how best to create career paths for support workers and “raise the bar of the support workforce”.
“In turn that raises questions about what graduate nurses do, how they should be operating and what kind of knowledge and skills they need in order for this role to be successful,” she said.
Dr Bayliss-Pratt said HEE would not embark on next steps until the analysis of the consultation had been completed.
“We have thought about how we would work pilots, but we still need to work through the analysis and decide whether people really want it. Until then we can’t confirm anything,” she said.
“Provisionally we have thought about 1,000 people for next year. But until we’ve got the data and until we know it’s what people want it would be foolish to start that conversation,” she added.