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 the national NHS workforce planning body, Nursing Times understands.
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.
Plans to create the role were announced in December 2015 by ministers, after the move was exclusively revealed by Nursing Times in November that year.
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The role, which has divided opinion since it was revealed, is intended to bridge the gap between healthcare assistants and nurses, and create a potential new route into registered nursing.
Over the summer universities and employers were invited by Health Education England to apply to test the new role. The application process has recently closed, with test sites due to be announced in the coming weeks.
Those chosen will test the new role for two years from January 2017 onwards. In its guidance for applications, HEE said each test site would have to provide a two-year training period for a minimum of 20 students.
It said the total number of test sites – a partnership between at least one education provider and employers hosting placements – was not fixed.
Nursing associates will be required to achieve a qualification equivalent to a foundation degree. However, it is yet to be decided whether the role will be registered.
Education providers will be given funding of up to £5,000 per year for each student, while employers and other placement providers testing the role will receive up to £1,750 per year for each trainee.
HEE also carried out work over the summer to define the competencies and scope of practice for nursing associates but has yet to reveal the findings.
A spokeswoman for HEE told Nursing Times the body was still finalising details on the number of people it planned to train and that an announcement on test sites would be made shortly.