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'Important considerations' needed over regulation of 'nursing associate' role

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The government’s introduction of a new “nursing associate” role will require some “important considerations” about whether it should be regulated, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has said.

The Department of Health yesterday announced its plans to create the new role, which it said would bridge the gap between healthcare support workers and nurses, and also make it easier to become a registered nurse.

Under the proposals, those who become a nursing associate – through an on-the-job apprenticeship leading to a foundation degree – will be able to go on and complete either a shortened nurse degree or a degree-level nurse apprenticeship.

“The starting point for any new role in healthcare has to be its contribution to improving patient safety and quality”

Jackie Smith

However, the plans did not reveal whether the new position would be registered with the NMC.

In response to the proposals, the nursing regulator said it was supportive of widening access into the profession.

But it stressed new routes into nursing should have the same “robust” approach that the existing university degree route for nurses provides.

“It will be important that any new routes into the profession have the same robust approach that the existing university degree route provides”

Jackie Smith

In a statement, NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said: “The introduction of this new role is an important development for the nursing profession and as the regulator for nursing and midwifery we will be carefully considering our role moving forward.

“The starting point for any new role in healthcare has to be its contribution to improving patient safety and quality and as such there will be some important considerations, including whether nursing associates should be regulated,” she said.

“It is for the government to determine the policy position in discussion with others, but while we are supportive of widening access into the nursing profession, it will be important that any new routes into the profession have the same robust approach that the existing university degree route provides,” said Ms Smith.

“As the minister rightly points out, an apprenticeship in nursing as a route to eventual registered nurse status must ‘have complete equality of both esteem and rigour’ as a degree,” she added.

Ms Smith said the NMC would be responding fully to the consultation on the proposals, which is due in the New Year and will be led by national workforce planning body Health Education England.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with the government and Health Education England on this important issue,” she said.

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