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For all of us this is a time of great change with many challenges. Those challenges are significant as ongoing demand on our services continues to change in both volume and shape across health and social care.
We witness severe pressures throughout the system on a daily basis, with nursing, midwifery and care staff placed frequently at the front, middle and back end of those pressures. As Chief Nursing Officer for England I am privileged to personally witness examples across the country where colleagues in different roles and organisations continuously demonstrate inspiring skill, compassion and resilience in highly pressured circumstances.
It can often seem that things never stand still long enough without more change coming along; and with this in mind we must be flexible and think differently about how we work. It requires significant leadership by all to shape this new system. However, I would also say that this is where our opportunity lies and now is the time to re-assess what we do, without abandoning what we have already achieved.
One of those opportunities was announced this week by Health Education England, the pilot of a new role called the Nursing Associate. This role will be a key part of the multi-disciplinary workforce in helping to meet the needs of a changing population as set out within the Five Year Forward View.
I am sure that we all agree of the need to build an adaptable contemporary workforce to respond to the changing world as a profession, as other services and industries such as military and police colleagues have successfully done. Additionally as public sector organisations we have a duty to use our resources wisely while ensuring that careers remain attractive and accessible to all.
The Nursing Associate role is part of developing this contemporary workforce and will work under the direction of a fully qualified Registered Nurse (RN). The Nursing Associate is not a RN but will undertake some of the duties that a RN currently undertakes, enabling the RN to spend more time on the assessment and care associated with both complex needs and advances in treatments.
Therefore, the Nursing Associate will have the training and skills to bridge the gap between what Health Care Assistant colleagues routinely do and the practice that is undertaken by a RN. The role is designed to enhance the quality of personalised care, strengthening the support available to registered nursing staff and reducing the reliance and dependency on RNs to undertake elements of care that others can be trained to understand and do.
The Nursing Associate role has additional benefits. Firstly, it widens the access to careers in nursing and potentially for other health professions. Equally, for those who wish to remain as a Nursing Associate the recognised breadth of the training not only provides national recognition and meaningful career development but transferability of skills within different settings such as community and primary care, mental health or social care.
For employers and clinical leaders, this will also offer a much welcomed further option of how to safely align the right staff with the right skills to match patient need, dependency and the environment of care. By using appropriate tools and frameworks that support decisions about safe staffing, employers will have increased options about how to manage resources appropriately in accordance with clear, professional and evidenced based guidance.
Our ability as a profession to adapt and innovate is critical to achieving high-quality care in the right place and at the right time. By modernising, we can shape a workforce that is fit for purpose for the next decade and beyond and positively demonstrate good outcomes, experience and compassionate care for those who need our support. These are just some of the key elements in our new framework for nursing, midwifery and care staff, Leading Change, Adding Value.
I wish the first cohort of Nursing Associates all the very best and look forward to visiting some of the pilot sites myself to see how they develop and the value that these new roles can bring to the delivery of care.