latest health care news

16.06.16

Nursing associates should not be ‘answer to everything’ – HEE

The new nursing associate role is being developed but should not be treated as a replacement for registered nurses, the director of nursing at Health Education England (HEE) said yesterday.

In a session at the NHS Confederation annual conference Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt said that aspects of the new role, including the curriculum, scope of practice, academic benchmarks and test sites for piloting it, are not defined.

She said they would be discussed at five engagement events in July, as well as during online crowdsourcing, and that 1,000 nursing associate students would be identified by December.

When asked if it was a concern that trusts would attempt to deal with financial pressures by replacing registered nurses with nursing associates, Bayliss-Pratt said HEE would “try and prevent this role from being the answer to everything” and that patient safety was “the most important thing”.

She did hint that training for the new role would probably involve a high degree of work-based learning. “Work-based learning feels like the right way to go,” said Bayliss-Pratt.

She also said it was crucial to align the new nursing associates with the 17,000 apprentices joining the workforce this year, calling the role of apprentices “one of the biggest challenges and opportunities across the NHS”.

Bayliss-Pratt added that HEE was keeping “an open mind” about whether regulation of the new role “would benefit or detract”.

Jackie Smith, chief executive and registrar at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), confirmed that the NMC has not been asked to regulate the role.

“You can’t have a conversation about regulation and patient safety until you know what the creature’s going to do,” she said.

Concerns were raised during the session about whether existing regulation on nursing and care roles was excessive.

Representatives from the care home sector warned that overseas care workers were required to have university-level English skills which weren’t needed in their role.

Bayliss-Pratt said that the new role would not bring back state registered nurses.

She said that the role would help the workforce “learn and a develop in a way they have never been able to before” and would form part of a hierarchy of career progression that could even end with nurses becoming executive directors.

NMC’s Smith also said that the new standards of the role should be future-proofed to reflect the growing complexities of care, such as an ageing patient population and the drive to achieve mental and physical health parity.

Bayliss-Pratt noted that mental health parity would be incorporated into the training for the new role. “We don’t want specialists from day one,” she said. “We want everyone to have the knowledge in mental health just as much as physical health.”

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