First nursing associates join health and care workforce
January 28, 2019
The first qualified nursing associates will become the latest addition to the health and care workforce in England today, after the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) opens its register to the new profession.
Around 1,800 nursing associates are expected to qualify over the course of the next few months.
The nursing associate role bridges the gap between unregulated healthcare assistants and registered nurses. The role was announced by the Government in 2016 and was developed by Health Education England (HEE).
Nursing associates will work as part of the wider health and care team in a variety of health and social care settings, from care homes and A&E to schools, and GP surgeries. They will contribute to the core work of nursing, delivering care independently and carrying out a range of activities from administering medication, and dressing wounds to promoting healthy lifestyle choices and wellbeing.
The role has been brought into being with the aim of freeing-up registered nurses to focus on more complex care duties and helping to widen access to the health and care professions by opening up new routes to training that previously didn’t exist.
Trainees are able to earn while they learn, via an apprenticeship, which may make it an attractive option for those who may have been working as healthcare assistants for a number of years and who want to progress. While qualified nursing associates may choose to remain in the role permanently, others will want to go on to train to become nurses.
The scheme has drawn some criticism; in June last year, Health Education England chairman Ian Cumming said the new role was taking staff away from the care sector.
“The nursing associate programme made things worse not better for social care,” said Mr Cumming.
“Trusts taking part put forward their healthcare support workers for the programme, who then had to be replaced. Where did they turn to in order to do that – the social care sector of course.”
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of provider representative body Care England, agreed:
“There has always been a problem of disparity in terms, conditions and training opportunities between NHS and social care, and this leads to staff gravitating from social care to the NHS,” said Prof. Green.
“If the workforce strategy is truly going to cross health and social care, there must be equal access to the training and development opportunities that currently are exclusively available to the NHS.”