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Nurse associate role will not be a 'quick fix' for the NHS

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Nurse associate roles can't fix staff shortages Nurse associate roles can't fix staff shortages

Nurse associates will not be a 'quick fix' for 'current and looming nurse shortages' finds a new report by the Health Foundation.

Staffing matters: funding counts examines the current workforce and how it can deliver on the Five Year Forward View with funding constraints and workforce shortages.

The report identified nursing shortages quoting figures from the National Audit Office estimating that the NHS was short of around 28,000 nurses, midwives and health visitors and that there were recruitment and retention issues in general practic as key barriers to the implementation.

The report then contained five separate supplements called 'pressure points' which included the changes to the nurse bursaries, the potential of physician associates and nursing associates and international recruitment, among others.

The supplement on nursing associates outlined that the introduction of the associate nurse could 'risk confusion in two directions'. The first is the detail around the role, such as regulation and how it will supplement registered nurses. Secondly the report said that the NHS has a 'mixed' track record of encouraging new roles and so 'the lesson here is that a new role is never a quick fix'. The report states that it could be up to 10 years before a new role is embedded within the NHS workforce.

Janet Davies, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said that the report 'correctly identifies the risks of focusing too much on the introduction of news roles rather than investing in the current workforce'.

Another 'pressure point' analysed the scrapping of the student nurse bursary. The analysis acknowledged that the number of applications for pre-registration nursing education was in excess of funded acceptances. However this would need to be monitored in the long-term to identify the impact on the attractions of nursing as a career. This will depend on perceptions of career opportunities and pay levels.

'Cuts to student nurse commissions and a lack of long-term workforce planning have caused this crisis. It could be worsened by the government’s untested gamble with student nurse funding which our members are clear will have a negative impact on the future supply of graduate nurses, who are vital for delivering safe patient care,' said Ms Davies.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: 'Funding constraints and workforce shortages without a doubt present the greatest risks to the delivery of the Five Year Forward View – and the longer-term sustainability of our NHS. The current approach to workforce policy needs to be overhauled so that staffing and funding are treated as two sides of the same coin.'

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I have been in the NHS for more years than i care to remember !
When the powers that be decided to phase out the Enrolled Nurse they were warned that this would happen However, they thought they knew better !
And what a surprise they are bringing in Associate Nurses who are Enrolled Nurses with a different title !!
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The Department of Health has long known that there will be a significant reduction in the NHS workforce, principally senior and experienced nurses but also medical practitioners, primarily due to retirements (a number of clinicians electing to retire early).

The high profile NHS 'pressures' and restricted health and social funding sadly do not make the NHS an attractive proposition. However the proposed introduction of new 'semi-professional' roles is not the solution to the manpower crisis. Instead of creating a new 'assistant practitioner' = SEN, or a new 'Physicians Assistant' = medical technician, the DH should be concentrating on salaried access to RN education for motivated HCAs and those with a genuine interest working in healthcare.The financial challenges associated with being an undergraduate nursing student are daunting and put many motivated individuals off.

The NMC should focus on the standardisation and specific registration of specialist nurse practitioners. The underpinning factor to recruitment and more importantly retention is the need to lift the pay restrictions, this would result in NHS Trusts being far less reliant on agency and locum staff and maybe instil a 'loyalty factor' to the elderly and creaking establishment which is the NHS.

Mike Paynter
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