The re-introduction of a role similar to state enrolled nurses could help provide a career path into registered nursing for healthcare assistants, according to care minister Norman Lamb.
Mr Lamb said he was “very attracted” to bringing back a nursing role “akin” to the SEN, which would make it easier for care workers to move onto graduate nurse training.
Speaking at a symposium on residential care earlier this week, the minister pointed to the gap in career progression for HCAs once they had achieved the new care certificate of fundamental skills, which is due to be rolled out next month.
“Should we be thinking about something intermediate between the care certificate and a fully qualified graduate nurse,” he asked the audience.
“I was talking to Peter Carter last week, the head of the Royal College of Nursing, and it is his view – and I am very attracted by it – that we should re-introduce something akin to the SEN, the state enrolled nurse,” he said.
Mr Lamb, who is Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, added: “I look in my own county and there are vast numbers of vacancies for nursing positions in the care sector.
“And yet we could create something that is easier for people to progress onto – perhaps in time to progress in turn to become a graduate nurse. But surely something in between is worth thinking about,” he said.
“There are vast numbers of vacancies for nursing positions in the care sector”
His suggestion was met with a round of applause from the audience of health and social care academics, policy experts and workers.
His comments follow renewed focus on the SEN role, after the UK Independence Party said last month that it would reintroduce it in order to encourage more “home grown talent” in nursing, as part of a package of election pledges for the NHS.
SENs were introduced in the 1940s but phased out during the 1990s after the restructuring of nurse education under Project 2000.
An RCN spokesman confirmed to Nursing Times that it was not calling for the reinstatement of the actual SEN title, but that it did want to see improvements in career development for HCAs and better access to nursing.
A Department of Health spokesman said Mr Lamb had been speaking in a personal capacity and it currently had no plans to reintroduce SENs.
Likewise, the Shape of Caring Review, which is due to publish its recommendations next week on the future of nursing education and training, is not expected to call for the return of SENs.
However, it is expected to call for measures to boost the career development of HCAs.