The Nursing and Midwifery Council would be able to regulate the new nursing associate role if asked to, its chief executive has told Nursing Times.
A consultation on the creation of the future role to bridge the gap between senior healthcare assistants and registered nurses is expected to be launched this week. Plans for the role were revealed by Nursing Times in November and confirmed by a government announcement just before Christmas.
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Speaking ahead of the expected consultation, NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said Health Education England and the government would need to be “clear” about their ideas for three “critical” factors affecting the role – its education pathway, standards and regulation.
In particular, she called for ministers and HEE to be transparent over whether it would be regulated, in order not to “mislead the public”.
“I think there’s a risk in the title nursing associate of misleading the public if that role is not regulated,” she said.
“If you’re going to create an additional role and you are going to say nurse in the title, the public will expect that that is someone who is registered and regulated with an organisation,” she said. “Our position is, if you are going to adopt that title, then please don’t mislead the public.”
Asked whether the NMC itself would like to regulate the role, Ms Smith said: “I think the NMC could do it if we were asked to do.
“If this person is being supervised, delegated to in any way by a registered nurse or is working in parallel with a registered nurse, then it would make sense for the NMC to do [regulate] it. But I think there’s a long way to go before we get to that point,” she told Nursing Times.
She added that, if was asked to regulate the role, it would ultimately be for the NMC council to approve. “The NMC council would have to decide whether it’s the right thing for the NMC to do but… I believe we could do it,” she said.
However, she noted that the job could be given to another regulator, such as the Health and Care Professions Council.
She acknowledged that the NMC had held “conversations” with the Department of Health about the new role, but stated that “nobody has said to us, will you regulate them”.
“There’s a risk in the title nursing associate of misleading the public if that role is not regulated”
She noted that if the role was fully regulated, those employed in it would be “subject to exactly the same regime” as registered nurses, regarding revalidation, fitness to practise and standards.
Ms Smith also confirmed that if it was asked to fully regulate the role, it would charge a fee.
“If it’s full regulation, by us or another regulator, then obviously it would attract a registration fee – it would have to,” she said.
“You couldn’t expect registered nurses to pay for somebody else on the register who might be earning a slightly different salary but effectively getting regulation for free.”