Nursing Associate

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The nursing associate is a new role currently being trialled 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. 

The information below is designed to support employers and managers of nurses, and those involved in testing the new role. If you are a member of staff or the public, thinking about the nursing associate as a possible career step for you, please speak to your HR departments or to dedicated careers advisors at Health Careers about possible future opportunities. 

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. 

Pilot sites

35 pilot sites (made up of employer-led partnerships) are in the process of training 2,000 nursing associates. Following much interest from organisations wishing to participate in the pilot, the initial plan for 1,000 trainees was doubled, with nursing associates trained in two tranches of test sites. The outcome of these pilot programmes will help to inform decisions about whether the role is introduced, and how this process is managed. 

Early feedback from the test sites is positive, with employers reporting enthusiasm for the role and its potential for adding value to the work of their multidisciplinary teams. The chance to work in partnership within Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) footprints, across health and social care sectors, with independent and NHS healthcare providers, and providers of education is also being well received. Among other benefits, trainees are gaining rich experience from their placements in different care settings. 

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. 

Training

The proposed two year training programme for the nursing associate will result in a foundation degree level qualification. In line with the new apprenticeship policy and practice, work is progressing on the development of a level 5 apprenticeship standard for the role. An employer-led 'trailblazer' partnership has recently consulted on the draft standard, which NHS Employers responded to on behalf of our networks. 

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.

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.

Regulation

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

Further information

Visit the new nursing associate microsite produced by Health Education England and Nursing Times. It provides a wealth of information about how the role was developed, underpinning policies, and how it is being tested in practice. 

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 speak to their HR departments or speak to dedicated careers advisors at Health Careers about possible future 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? 
Please share your thoughts by getting in touch with workforcesupply@nhsemployers.org.

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