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Government confirms new 'nursing associate' role


Government plans to introduce a “nursing associate” role to bridge the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses have been announced, with 1,000 expected to begin training in 2016.

The role will deliver hands on care and will allow registered nurses to spend increasing time on clinical duties and take more of a lead in decisions about patient care, according to the Department of Health.

As revealed last month by Nursing Times, it could also help to boost registered nurse numbers, as those who have completed nursing associate training may be able to obtain a nurse degree in less time than the standard three years.

However, today’s announcement did not reveal whether the new position would be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Those in the new position will complete ”on-the-job training” through an apprenticeship which will lead to a foundation degree, said the DH in a statement.

The government said the new role was recommended by nursing leaders and other healthcare professionals, predicting that up to 1,000 people could be trained from 2016.

“It is vital that we look at new ways to help staff deliver high quality, safe care across the week”

Ben Gummer

A consultation on the role – including the provisional title of “nursing associate” – will begin in the New Year, led by national workforce planning body Health Education England

Announcing the plans, health minister Ben Gummer said: “This new role, and the opportunity it offers for those who want to progress to a registered nurse, will open up a career in nursing for thousands of people from all backgrounds.

“Hard-working NHS staff are the lifeblood of the NHS and with an ageing population and changing patient needs, it is vital that we look at new ways to help staff deliver high quality, safe care across the week,” he said.

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Ben Gummer

The government said HEE would “maintain nurse training places” as the nursing associate role was introduced.

It said it was committed to ensuring there were 23,000 more nurses by the end of the parliament.

Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, HEE’s director of nursing, said: “The development of this new role has the potential to transform the nursing and care workforce. Making sure the role has clear entry and progression point will be crucial in the development of the role.

“We want to be able to create a career pathway with progression opportunities to enable job satisfaction for those that want to develop themselves in this important profession. Most importantly we want to have a role that gives patients the best possible safe and effective care,” she said.

A recent poll of almost 1,000 nurses by Nursing Times found support for the creation of a new job to bridge the gap between healthcare assistants and registrants.

In our survey, 47.5% of respondents said they welcomed the move, 36% said they were currently unsure about it and only 16.5% said they were opposed.

Many directors of nursing have declared their support for the idea, but the Royal College of Nursing has warned that it would be a “retrograde step” that risked creating a “second-level” role similar to the former state-enrolled nurses.

The role was first suggested following a major review of nursing education and training that was commissioned by HEE.


Readers' comments (25)

  • Alas this isn't a return to the SEN role,this is sinister to say the least. Unqualifieds pretending to be important with poor medical knowledge and poor awareness of a deteriorating patient. How far will this role go? Can anybody shed any light? Care on the cheap and IMO frightening.

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  • Care on the cheap.....I agree. And who takes responsibility for their action and omissions? Some regulation needed surely. All this government can see are pound signs.

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  • This role already exists there are approx 5000 AP both nhs and private sector and have been for the last 15years..whilst unregistered they are trained and competent to the the roles they fulfil they are qualified to band 4 and are fully trainedto recognise deteriorating patients all staff are account for what they do the trust they work for are responsible for them at the individual will be held to account in the eyes of the law

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  • Yay!
    Enrolled nurses are back :)

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  • Pussy

    A retrograde step.

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  • HCSW

    Mr Hunt has started the war with RGNs and he has won two big battles so far. Now its a time for enhancements. I bet in mid 2016 there will be no more enhancements for weekends and nights (or those will be reduced to 10%).
    As a politician he is extremely efficient: bursaries are disappearing, agency RGNs are working for a 12 quid/h with no holiday pay

    RCN and trade unions are fast asleep.

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  • If these new associate nurses are regulated by the NMC then I am all for it. There is a great deal of good old nursing care that is currently done by HCAs who have variable training and are not regulated. Graduate RNs today have a role far removed from that I had when I first qualified in the 80s. We all lament the passing of nurses who gave basic nursing care but do you really need a degree to do that? I think not; you can have a degree and be a nurse but you don't need a degree to be one (I speak as a nurse who qualified under the old regime but later went on to graduate.) Creating this new role and bridging the gap between HCA and RN, making it possible and more accessible to progress from one to the other, is not a retrograde step or a return to SENs of yesteryear. It is a logical way of increasing nurse numbers. I'd like to think that those at the top who see it as the way forward may just be realising that making nursing a completely graduate profession was a bit of an expensive mistake. There is plenty of room out there for both graduate and (for want of a better word) certified (registered?) nurses.

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  • Agree with everything said by Denise Moyse. Maybe, we who qualified under the old system, trained rather than undertook degree training, recognised the value of the SEN and hope that the associate nurse would again put in place ' the bedside nurse'.

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  • Looks like enrolled nurses are coming back - & why not? Can still train as an EN in Australia, it was a role that had a niche in health care and still does in many countries.

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  • I have been an AP for over five years, with my degree and I can assure you I am totally qualified to recognize a deteriorating patient. I also line manage band 2-3 staff, do rotas, 1-1s appraisals and currently studying on a leadership course. So please dont think just because an AP doesn't yet have a piece of paper to say they are registered Tha we are thick or incompetent. Some nurses who do have registrations are not worthy of that piece of paper. And by writing some of the above comments you highlight just how unprofessional you are.

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