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Nursing associates ‘not substitutes’ for nurses, warn unions

  • 10 Comments

Unions have warned that the creation of the new nursing associate role should not be seen as a solution to the shortage of registered nurses.

Last year, Nursing Times revealed that plans were being developed for a bridging role intended to sit between nurses and senior healthcare assistants, which would also offer a fast-track route onto the register via degree-level apprenticeships.

“There is real scope for further patient confusion with the introduction of a new role”

Christina McAnea

The creation of what are provisionally being called “nursing associates” – previously often referred to as associate nurses – was subsequently confirmed by ministers in December and a consultation on the role was launched yesterday by the workforce and training body Health Education England.

Responding to the consultation announcement, Unison and the Royal College of Nursing warned that the role should be viewed as supplementary to registered nurses, rather than as a substitute.

Unison said the plans must provide “genuine opportunities” to enhance the role of HCAs but that they would not solve the “fundamental problem” of nursing shortages.

“The title nursing associate reflects this supplementary, supportive role”

Janet Davies

The union has previously campaigned for better training and qualifications for HCAs and for better development of the existing higher level role of assistant practitioner.

It said that if the government wanted to ensure that registered nurses were supported by highly skilled support staff, it should fund further training for existing HCAs rather than creating a new role.

It also warned that such moves to develop HCAs must not be a diversion from the need to increase the supply of nurses.

Both unions highlighted that evidence showed better patient care was achieved by having more registered nurses.

Unison

Nursing associates ‘not substitutes’ for nurses, warn unions

Christina McAnea

Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: “We already have healthcare assistants, assistant practitioners and registered nurses on wards and in the community. There is real scope for further patient confusion with the introduction of a new role.

“The government must look at the nursing family as a whole and ensure there is a consistent structure to improve the training and prospects of healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners, including those who want to progress all the way to qualify as registered nurses,” she said.

“There is no quick fix to plug the gaping shortages of registered nurses,” she added.

Royal College of Nursing

Nursing associates ‘not substitutes’ for nurses, warn unions

Janet Davies

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said HCAs has a “vital role to play” and deserved “training, development and regulation”.

“Support workers should also be given improved access into the nursing profession if they wish, but this must be through the graduate pathway,” she said.

She added: “More should be done to develop these supportive and complementary roles, but they must never be used as substitutes for graduate, registered nurses. The title nursing associate reflects this supplementary, supportive role.”

  • 10 Comments

Readers' comments (10)

  • Nursing is not just a just a job where you get up and decide l am going to be a nurse, nurse have gone to university to study 3yrs on the course and the gorvenment wants a short cut because of the shortage of nurses.I think the gorvenment is undermining the abilities for current qualified nurses.Those who want to be nurses should go and study the degree which is required archivement for one to be registered as a nurse , there is a reason for that.There should be no short cuts in nursing , send healthcare assistants to university for three years so they can practice, and continue finding nursing courses to have more nurses .

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  • I am disappointed that our unions did not stand up more against this role being created...... we are taking vast steps backwards instead of forwards.

    I will not risk my registration working in a sub standard environment that will be created by a heavy reliance on the new associate nurse. If they want the title of nurse then they should go to uni like the rest of us and get properly qualified. This is a cheap quick fix from a government that only shows contempt for the NHS workforce!!! It will crash and burn like all the other half whit ideas they are coming out with!!

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  • Excuse me, but what of us oldsters who qualified as registered nurses in the days of yore, have kept ourselves updated and up to date, moved with the times but were trained and educated pre the degree-only regime? Are we not worthy to be called 'nurse'?

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  • One small step for Government, one massive leap backwards for professional nursing.

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  • I was under the impression those qualified before the days of a degree were under the obligation to top up to a degree. I think your comment isn't actually that relevant, and sounds just like bitterness to me. The article is referring to current training and procedures, and current policy states nurses need to complete a degree to qualify.

    On the actual matter of nursing associates, I think it's a terrible idea, and will only create more confusion and friction between team members. Clearly dreamed up by those with no current experience on the shop floor

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  • We already have a variety of unregulated, unqualified nurse support roles. What we now need is to regulate this work and subject employers and practitioners to a robust competency framework. I don't believe anyone is suggesting the new role as a substitute for registered nurses - so why are we feeling threatened? There may be many reasons for this in the same way some doctors felt "threatened" by the development of masters level and PhD nurses. I have been nursing 40 years and progressed to MSc from an SRN (apprentice model). I welcome this development if it also brings accredited training & regulation for healthcare support workers and we continue to increase student nurse numbers.

    We all have a role to play in ensuring patients receive the best possible care in challenging times. So let's open our minds to a competence based approach that may go some way to restore patient trust in healthcare and much needed support to hard pressed nurses.

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  • could be helpful , but it's only a way to hl who they an to help. To be a RN with a degree it'sanother standard .but we know.

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  • I still feel that enrolled nurse training should be introduced. We seem to be lacking hands on nurses.

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  • Proper training for all HCA's should be brought in not just creation of a new nearly a nurse role. Better training for all and recognition of the hard work that HCA's put in, some are very experienced and very supportive of the nurses that they work with.

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  • What about the real quality support staff who would love to go to university , but have not got that option to finance?

    Yes in an ideal world trusts would second individuals, but is doesnt happen. I would be more concerned by the lack of nurses undermining yours and patients safety, than wether you as an individual is being undermined.
    I am studying for a foundation degree under the associate practitioner guise as i genuinely hope to become a nurse. I certainly would not described myself as sub standard, and given the quality of some of the so called student nurses on placement i feel ahead of their development.

    I have been told that those who still have the old diploma in nursing have technically got a lower form of education than those with an associate title.

    I would much rather educate those that are in a job and want to devolop than those who have very little life experience or see uni as a way to a full time and stable job.

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