Over half of all nurses think the new nursing associate role should be regulated, according to a consultation from Health Education England (HEE).
Nurses and organisations answered a series of questions on the proposed new role, around regulation, education and job title. Respondents mostly welcomed the introduction but said there must be a clearer definition of the role and a national career framework. There was concern regarding the risks of duplication on registered nurses and APs. Many respondents also stated that the now defunct role of the state enrolled nurse should be looked at in order to avoid the same mistakes being made.
Around 760 respondents said that the role should be regulated and the next largest group of respondents (241) said it should be registered. Those advocating regulation identified a number of benefits including patient safety, public reassurance, accountability, professional credibility, protection of the new professionals and the administration of medicines. The majority of these said the NMC should take responsibility for regulation.
HEE has noted that there was strong support for regulating the role. It responded that once there is knowledge on the skills and competencies required for the role 'NHS Improvement, NHS England, HEE and the NMC [will] assess [if] there are risks to patient safety, they will consider the appropriate level of regulation (if any) and HEE will work with the Department of Health to take this forward.'
'This new role has the potential to transform the nursing and care workforce - making sure the role has a clear entry and progression point will be crucial in its development,' said Professor Lisa Bayliss Pratt, director of nursing and deputy director of education and quality at HEE.
'The role is neither a panacea for future workforce supply, or a substitute for increasing the supply of graduate registered nurses – and throughout the process we sought to reassure people that patient safety remains paramount and is a determining factor that underlines the role,' she added.Donna Kinnair, director of nursing, policy and practice at the RCN, said: 'It’s clear that there were widely shared concerns that the nursing associate role could be used a substitute for registered nurses, and it is positive to see that HEE have acknowledged this worry. It’s vital to have a supporting workforce who have a framework for progression and the ability to develop in their roles if that is what they want to do.'
HEE has also proposed to move forward with the job title of nursing associate as there was no consensus on a new title throughout the consultation. Many respondents stated that it should contain the word nurse or nursing.
HEE intends to appoint ‘test sites' to pilot the implementation of the new role. Five workshops will take place in England in July so that HEE can engage with stakeholders on the new role. Early test sites will recruit 1000 students to start training for the new role in 2017.
There were 1384 responses to the consultation. These included 1129 individual responses and 255 responses from organisations.