Over 5,500 nursing associates working in the NHS with more to come under NHS Long Term Workforce Plan

Since joining to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register in 2019, 5,500 nursing associates are working in the NHS as it marks the fifth-year anniversary of the first cohort joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register.

Nursing associates work in a variety of settings and play an essential role in delivering patient care within health and care teams.

This key clinical role is a bridge between healthcare assistants and registered nurses and enables registered nurses to lead on more complex assessment and planning of care.

The nursing associate role also provides a career pathway for healthcare support workers and is a potential progression route into graduate level nursing. Over the last five years, thousands of healthcare support workers from NHS Trusts have enrolled on training nursing associate programmes.

Emily Robinson is one of the healthcare support workers who has taken up this opportunity.

She said that she has always been interested in a career in healthcare and originally wanted to become a midwife but didn’t have the right qualifications to study this at university.

However, her desire to work in the healthcare sector wasn’t diminished and she was offered a role working as a healthcare support worker.

Emily, who works for Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “I decided I wanted to pursue my career further into nursing and successfully applied to be a trainee nursing associate.

“Since I started in March 2023, I spend my time working alongside qualified nursing colleagues.

“I have worked in a variety of different placements, both in hospitals as well as out in the community such as in health visiting services.

“I combine working as a trainee nursing associate with university assignments and while it is hard work, I think it is a great approach to be learning while you are working.”

Increasing the number of routes into the nursing professions is a key part of growing the workforce to achieve the ambitions laid out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

The plan has pledged to increase the number of nursing associates to 64,000 full-time equivalents (FTE) by 2036/37.

In order to achieve this, the NHS will expand the number of training places to 10,500 by 2031/32, as part of the wider plans for expansion across the nursing professions.

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “It is wonderful to be marking the fifth anniversary of the role today.  Since its introduction, the nursing associate role has made a huge contribution as part of the multi-disciplinary team and provides essential care and support to patients and their families. The role contributes to improved service delivery, enhances patient care and boosts staff retention due to expanded career growth prospects.

“As well as being a vital profession in its own right, the nursing associate training pathway also plays an important role in career progression – recognising talent and offering opportunities to healthcare support workers to progress if they want to as well as providing a potential onward route from nursing associate to registered nurse.”

“I welcome every opportunity to grow our professions and we are continuing to look at how we further strengthen opportunities for career progression. As we continue to increase the number of nursing associates and open up the profession to more people, I look forward to welcoming them to the NHS.”

Andrew Stephenson, Health Minister, said: “Nursing associates do a fantastic job supporting patients and freeing up registered nurse to focus on more complex care.

“These roles will play a central part of the NHS’s Long Term Workforce Plan which will expand the number of nursing associate training places to 10,500 by 2031/32.”

See here from some nursing associates case studies: NHS England » Nursing associate case studies