Nursing Associate

The Secretary of State for Health announced an expansion in the numbers of Nursing Associates on 3 October 2017. Plans will see 5,000 Nursing Associates trained through the apprentice route in 2018 and 7,500 in 2019. Details of the expansion will be confirmed by HEE in the forthcoming weeks for employers, Higher Education Institutes and prospective Nursing Associate applicants.

The expansion builds on Health Education England’s (HEE) current pilot project which has 35 test sites training 2,000 Nursing Associates. Early feedback from the ongoing evaluation is very positive, with employers reporting enthusiasm for the role and its potential for adding value to the work of their multidisciplinary teams.

HEE is starting a programme of independent evaluation of the pilot sites this autumn to ensure Nursing Associates are receiving the same high quality training in every setting.

In addition, HEE has submitted an initial proposal to the Department of Health Research and Development committee for funding for a longitudinal research study focusing on the outcome and impact of the role and we will continue to further develop this proposal over the coming months.

As nurse leaders we have a responsibility to provide assurance that this new role is not a move away from degree educated Registered Nurses, nor will it replace Registered Nurses.

The Nursing Associate role is designed to bridge the gap between Healthcare Assistants and Registered Nurses in England. Nursing Associates will deliver care, freeing up Registered Nurses to spend more time using their skills and knowledge to focus on complex clinical duties and take a lead in decisions on the management of patient care.

Following their training, Nursing Associates will work within teams with direct or indirect supervision to deliver aspects of nursing care, complementing the work of registered nurses, not replacing them.

Employers tell us they need a more flexible workforce to keep pace with developments in treatments and interventions. The Nursing Associate role is designed to provide employers with a wider skill mix within multidisciplinary teams.

The Nursing Associate role is one of many new roles emerging across the healthcare professions; Physicians’ Associates, Physicians’ Assistant (anaesthesia), Surgical Care Practitioner and Nursing Associates are just some of the new roles which are all designed to improve patient care and form a valuable part of a contemporary multidisciplinary workforce.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) recent consultation on the future nurse standards shows that the Registered Nurse of the future will be educated to plan, deliver and evaluate more complex care.

The Department of Health will publish plans for the regulation of Nursing Associates by the NMC.

A public consultation to seek views to regulate Nursing Associates opened on 16 October 2017 and closes on 26 December 2017.

In preparation for their regulatory role, the NMC have published draft Nursing Associate standards of proficiency on their website.

Finally, the Registered Nurse and Nursing Associate standards will define the differences between the roles. The Nursing Associate standards are critical to future development of the Nursing Associate role and will become part and parcel of future guidance issued to health and care organisations implementing the role.

The standards will also include the pathway that Nursing Associates will be able to undertake to become a graduate Registered Nurse. This pathway will enable many existing health and care workers to access a career in nursing which would have previously been out of reach.

Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England
Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Director of Nursing, Health Education England.
Hilary Garratt, Director of Nursing, NHS England and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England
Ruth May, Executive Director of Nursing, NHS Improvement and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England