The now confirmed ‘nursing associate’ role has dominated headlines this week.
The results from the consultation on the role were announced on Thursday with the conclusion that it will be going ahead. Health Education England, which led the six-week consultation, reiterated there was a real “appetite” for the role among the profession but that it would not be a substitute for increasing the supply of nurses.
Of course this news has led to concerns being raised, namely its impact on patient safety. One union accused the government of “ducking” the issue of regulation - after HEE said it was yet to make a decision on the matter - and said it was “essential” nursing associates were regulated.
Also up for debate is what level of supervision nursing associates should have. Health Education England will be holding workshops at five sites this summer in order to develop a scope of practice that will clarify this issue.
But nursing associates can only be supervised if there are enough nurses to do so. An economist report published this week predicts a 6% drop in demand for healthcare courses as a result of the removal of the bursary, as well as financial losses for unis and savings for the government being short of what they originally estimated.
The report, commissioned by Unison, will have given ammunition to the students, nurses and healthcare workers who gathered at Westminster earlier this week to appeal to their MPs about the proposed change in funding.
If the report’s predictions are correct, we may be heading for a workforce crisis in the near future - if we’re not already there. Official data shared with Nursing Times suggests workforce issues have meant trusts are finding it increasingly difficult to comply with caps on the hourly rates paid to agency nurses, as the government-enforced rules have been ratcheted down in the past few months. While a report this week warned that workforce capacity issues in health and social care organisations are making it difficult to discharge older patients from hospital effectively.