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New nursing support role set to be created

It will aim to help bridge the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses

Caroline White

Friday, 18 December 2015

A new nursing support role—provisionally called nursing associates—is to be created, with post holders working alongside healthcare support workers and fully qualified nurses, the government has announced.

The role was recommended by nursing leaders and other healthcare professionals to help bridge the gap between healthcare support workers, who have a care certificate, and registered nurses.

Nursing associates will support nurses to spend more time using their specialist training to focus on clinical duties and take more of a lead in decisions about patient care.

Under the proposals staff will learn on the job via an apprenticeship, leading to a foundation degree. The government will also look at what opportunities there are for staff in this role to progress to become a registered nurse through either a degree level nurse apprenticeship or a shortened nursing degree at university.

It will be up to individual NHS employers to decide how many nursing associates they need. However it is anticipated that up to 1,000 nursing associates could be trained from 2016. There will be a consultation on the scope of this role, including the title, with representatives from the nursing profession, including the royal colleges and representative unions in the new year.

Making the announcement, health minister Ben Gummer said: "This new role…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 added: “Along with the recent changes to student funding, which will enable universities to offer up to 10,000 additional training places over this parliament, we will ensure the profession is accessible for all those with the skills, values and ambition to choose nursing.”

Janet Davies, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, welcomed the announcement and said that the RCN had campaigned for healthcare assistants to be able to access recognised training and development to enable them to fulfil their roles safely and competently.

“Some of these roles will be new, but part of this initiative is about enabling people in unregulated positions, supporting registered nurses, to access training via a clear structure, and this is very welcome. These nursing associate roles should release time for our nurses to care and to utilise their clinical skills appropriately."

"A registered nurse is a clinical decision-maker, with degree-level knowledge and skills, considerable experience of caring for people with multiple or complex conditions, plus the ability to supervise and educate more junior staff. These new roles will assist those graduate nurses and give a route into the profession to people who would otherwise have been denied the opportunity."

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, commented: "We know that many Trusts have already developed innovative associate practitioner roles and their experience will be a valuable resource as this new initiative is considered.”

But he cautioned: “It’s important however not to pre-empt any decisions about these roles until the consultation has taken place. We will seek the views of employers during the months to come on the training and deployment of the proposed.”

There will be a consultation on all the specifics of the scope of the new role, including the title, with representatives from the nursing profession, including the royal colleges and representative unions, in the new year.

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