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New therapy 'bridging' role could follow nursing associates


Another new bridging role that combines both nursing and therapy skills is set to be explored by the national workforce planning body, once nursing associates are fully established, it has been revealed.

The first 2,000 nursing associates will begin training at pilot sites across the country during 2017, as previously reported by Nursing Times. They will be trained via a two-year programme and are intended to “bridge” the gap between healthcare assistants and nurses.

“These [associate] roles are absolutely perfect for bridging the health and care interface”

Ian Cumming

Health Education England chief executive Ian Cumming has now said that once the controversial new career path had become “business as usual”, the workforce planning body could then look at introducing therapy associates along similar lines.

Employers had wanted a new “nurse therapist” post for a while, he said, but it was originally envisaged as being trained to degree-level.

Referring to national shifts towards more integrated services, he said that associate roles were well-placed for bringing together health and social care work.

“Coming back to that integration point, these roles are absolutely perfect for bridging the health and care interface. Particularly for people working in these roles out in the community,” he told HEE’s latest board meeting, on 13 December.

“As a board, we have talked previously about a demand that’s come from some parts of the service for this nurse therapist role – an individual who combines some of the skills of a therapist with some of the skills of a nurse.

“The next stage we’ll be going [to], once it is business as usual for nursing associates, may be therapy associates”

Ian Cumming

“Now that could exist at the registered professional degree level, but it could also exist at this [associate] level as well,” he said.

“So, I actually think the next stage we’ll be going [to], once it is business as usual for nursing associates, may be either therapy associates, or maybe taking it to be a more generic care/health therapy type role,” he added.

A total of 2,000 nursing associates will be piloted from 2017 at 35 test sites across England.

At the same board meeting, the HEE chief executive noted that the quality and number of people applying to take part in the nursing associate pilots so far had been “fantastic”.

Mr Cumming had previously stated at the end of 2014 there was demand for nurse therapists – who could be qualified in nursing as well as in areas such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy – or nurse pharmacists.

However, at the time, he warned it was important to ensure enough employers would be able to recruit those in the new roles once they had completed their training, referring to similar problems with physician associates.


Readers' comments (4)

  • Nurses can hardly do nursing these days and now they want to add another profession to role. Bah humbug.

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  • More dilution of the nursing profession when we've worked so hard for recognition. There's a shortage of nurses so let's introduce a role that allows easier access and less time to qualify then just top- up to be nurses.
    This just undermines the profession. I know there are some fantastic health care assistants and will be some amazing nurse associates but unlike medicine the nursing profession is inconsistent. Some nurses would make fabulous Dr's but the GMC would never suggest they could top up to achieve this, not had it never introduced an assistant or associate Dr. I wonder why?

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  • These people like Cummings ( both of them ) should spend a day on a busy ward , they would quickly realise their hair brained ideas will cause confusion, waste time, no doubt adding to the already overload of paperwork.

    It will lead to more qualified registered nurses leaving the profession thus adding to a problem that is already bad enough. Please wake up.

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  • Very good point made about there not being associate Dr's. The medical profession would decry the very idea, which would undermine and devalue their profession. Tragic that nurse leaders have not done the same. Six more years to work and they can't go quickly enough.

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