The nursing associate is a new role currently being tested to help build the capacity and capability of the nursing workforce in England. The role aims to bridge the gap between health and care support workers who have a care certificate, and graduate registered nurses.
A new role to support the nursing family
A number of political, social and economic factors have led to unprecedented pressures on health and social care services, and workforce supply challenges - particularly within nursing. When considered as part of a holistic and forward thinking workforce strategy, the new nursing associate role could offer an opportunity for employers to make the most of current and emerging talent and help them to address some of their supply challenges.
The role is still in testing phase as detailed below. NHS England has clarified that the proposed nursing associate role is intended to be part of developing the multi-disciplinary workforce, and that nursing associates would work under the direction of fully qualified registered nurses. Following their training, nursing associates would not be registered nurses, but could undertake some of the duties that registered nurses undertake. The new role is intended to complement, rather than replace, registered nurses, enabling them to spend more time on the assessment and care associated with both complex needs and advances in treatment.
At the end of January 2017, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) formally agreed to a request from the Department of Health to be the regulator for the new nursing associate role. Find out more on the NMC website.
Work is progressing on the development of the level 5 apprenticeship standard for the new nursing associate role. An employer-led 'trailblazer' partnership has submitted a proposal to government, which has been approved for development.
A ‘skills escalator’ is to also be developed to help employers provide a career pathway for staff from entry-level apprenticeships through to a nursing degree apprenticeship.
11 pilot sites (made up of partnerships between trusts and education providers) are in the process of training 1,000 nursing associates. Following much interest from organisations wishing to participate in the pilot, a further 1,000 nursing associates will be trained this year. The outcome of these pilot training exercises will help to inform decisions about whether the role is introduced in the NHS and how this process is managed.
Employers and providers are being supported by guidance from NHS England and Health Education England, who are overseeing the work. NHS Employers is working closely with national bodies to make sure employers are influencing this process and being kept informed about important developments as they happen.
NHS Staff Council advice
It is recommended that the pilot sites use the nationally developed job descriptions and match these to the profiles confirmed by the Job Evaluation Group (JEG) as being appropriate for these roles. Read the joint statement from the NHS Staff Council for further advice.
For more information about the pilot sites, and other nationally led work, please see the NHS England and Health Education England websites.
Those involved in planning, designing and delivering education and training programmes can find information about the nursing associate curriculum on the Health Education England website.
Current or prospective staff interested in becoming nursing associates are encouraged to contact Health Education England or the HR department of local participating trusts for more information about opportunities.
Tell us your views
Understanding your position will help us to support you. We are keen to hear employer views about the nursing associate role. Are you a participating pilot site? Are you planning to use it to develop your workforce and its capacity? How might this fit with other strategic priorities, such as the apprenticeship agenda? What challenges and opportunities do you think it might bring?