Health Education England (HEE) is inviting key stakeholders to provide views on the new nursing associate role, which will work alongside healthcare support workers and nurses to deliver care.
The new role aims to bridge the gap between healthcare support workers, who have a care certificate and graduate registered nurses. It will also offer the opportunity for healthcare assistants to progress into nursing roles.
The consultation will seek views on a range of issues including principles for the new care role, identifying what academic achievement would be required alongside practical skills and how this learning should be best delivered and looking at whether the proposed role should be regulated and agreeing the title of this new role.
Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, the director of nursing at Health Education England, said that the consultation would gage whether there was an appetite for this new role. 'Following the Shape of Caring Review which identified that there as a need for this intermediate role between someone who holds the care certificate and and the graduate registered nurse, I would be surprised if there was no appetite for this role. However if there wasn't we wouldn't pursue it.'
She said it was too early to tell how they would slot into the primary care nursing workforce but said that during the Shape of Caring Review a need was identified for them to 'work in GP practices and community nursing teams and develop a scope of practice that frees the registered nurse to do the work they neded to do'.
Following the consultation a number of pilots will take place in a number of settings across the country.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has welcomed the consultation and said they will be responding fully. ‘We are particularly interested in the consultation questions that deal with the education and regulation of the new role. While it is for the government to decide how nursing associates would enter the workforce, the specifics of their role and whether they should be regulated, it will be vital that the role has the rigour to attract public confidence,’ said chief executive of the NMC Jackie Smith.
However, Unison have said that the new nursing role is not a solution to the nursing shortage. ‘We already have healthcare assistants, assistant practitioners, and registered nurses on wards and in the community. There is real scope for further patient confusion with the introduction of a new role.’
Christina McAnea, head of health at the union, instead said that the government should look at the nursing family as a whole and ensure that there is a consistent structure to train healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners.
Professor Bayliss Pratt responded to Unison's comments by saying there was no quick solution to the nursing shortage and that all different ways needed to be explored to tackle it. 'We need to make sure that we have meaningful pilots and that we also invest time and energy into the exisiting workforce,' she said.
Janet Davies from the Royal College of Nursing, said that more should be done to support these complementary roles but they ‘must never be used as substitutes for graduate registered nurses.’ The RCN has also committed to responding to the consultation.
The consultation closes on 11 March and can be accessed via the Health Education England website. Healthcare employers, nurses, care assistants, health commissioners and other stakeholders are all welcome to take part.