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Nursing associates must not be ‘nurses on the cheap’

Nurses leader Janet Davies says the new job must not undermine traditional nursing

Mark Gould

Thursday, 24 December 2015

In her Christmas message, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that the introduction of new role of nursing associates must not undermine the position and duties of registered nurses.

The role is designed to bridge the gap between care assistants and fully qualified nurses. In plans announced earlier this month, nursing associates would focus on patient care and could work their way up to becoming registered nurses.

The Department of Health said staff trained through this route will "learn on the job" through an apprenticeship leading to a foundation degree.

Ministers will look at whether associates can progress to become a registered nurse through either a degree level nurse apprenticeship or a shortened nursing degree at university.

Depending on the outcome of the consultation, up to 1,000 nursing associates could be trained from 2016.

RCN chief executive Janet Davies said that plans to introduce the new role would be a positive step for health care assistants wishing to develop their careers. "However, it must not erode the role and responsibilities of the registered nurse. Nursing associates should not be expected to do a nurses’ job for less pay," she said.

She also reflected on the RCN's successful opposition to Government's "completely unreasonable" plans to force non-EU nurses earning less than £35,000 to leave the country.

"Because of the strength of our collective voice, nursing has been temporarily placed on the Shortage Occupation List – meaning hardworking overseas nurses can continue their careers in the UK."

Ms Davies paid tribute to the work done by nursing colleagues in the RCN to produced guidance and publications used by health care professionals across the world. "Your feedback has meant we have influenced the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s revalidation model and we will continue to share your views so the process will work for all nurses and midwives."

She committed to continuing the campaign to raise nurses pay and said the RCN would be working to mitigate against the potential harm done by the Government announcement in November to end funding and bursaries for future university nursing courses in England.

"This is a real worry for future nursing students and future staffing numbers. We are working to make sure this decision does not deter would-be nurses from entering the profession. Over 1,500 of you have already sent us evidence about the importance of the bursary, which we will be using in our negotiations with ministers."

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