Nursing associate funding


Date: 2nd Dec 2016

Health Education England has this week announced that Buckinghamshire New University will be the education partner in three successful bids to deliver training for the new nursing associate role, which sits alongside existing nursing care support workers and fully-qualified registered nurses.

Bucks will partner with the London Borough of Hammersmith and FulhamImperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Some 24 test sites across England have been selected to initially deliver the two-year training for a further 1,000 nursing associates from 2017.

Sue West (pictured), Dean of Faculty of Society & Health, who qualified as a nurse in 1982, considers the impact of the new role on the wider NHS workforce.

She said: "Throughout my 37 years of working in and with the NHS, periods of stasis have been rare. In my ever-optimistic way, I have always felt that we go up in spirals, not round in circles, as we learn and advance from the past. As the latest test sites for the new nursing associate role are announced, I have been reflecting on the past and how we must continue in an upward, not downward, spiral to avoid the potential for two levels of professional nursing to once again co-exist."

"I have always felt that we go up in spirals, not round in circles, as we learn and advance from the past." - Sue West.

"In recent years, the health care support (HCA) worker has been high on the workforce planning agenda and has become a key role in supporting integrated care. In his Shape of Caring Review (2015), Lord Willis rightly highlighted the need to invest in the essential workforce of unregistered workers, which includes the 1.3 million HCAs who provide the bulk of face-to-face care and support to patients. I believe that great strides have already been made in developing the knowledge and skills of HCAs and Assistant Practitioners through NVQs, foundation degrees and the inception of the foundation programme known as the Care Certificate, which has enabled their progression through the salary bands 1-4.

"The Shape of Caring review has prompted much discussion about a 'care gap' between the HCA and the registered nurse, with suggestions that a new type of nursing role is required. But is this a 'care gap' or in fact a 'workforce gap'? Studies have shown that the supply of nurses will not and has not kept up with demand and many NHS Trusts have declared a large vacancy rate at salary band 5 with poor retention figures for newly-qualified nurses.

"Consultation earlier in the year about the new nursing associate role generated very mixed views and the debate continues. Some fear it will effectively herald a return of the former enrolled nurse, who practised under the direction of a registered nurse. Others herald the nursing associate as a much-needed role to reduce a 'care gap' and that its introduction will help employers who are struggling to fill band 5 vacancies.

'Care gap'

"It has always been my belief that if a 'care gap' does indeed exist, we should continue to develop existing roles such as the Assistant Practitioner and look at ways in which these roles can better support the registered nurse. I think we must also be mindful that the introduction of a new nursing associate role may lead to confusion for service users.

"The challenge for all of us involved in education and training is to ensure that the foundation degree programmes for assistant/associate roles are structured in a way that links with pre-qualifying nursing programmes. This will enable 'step on' opportunities that account for the knowledge and experience gained by individuals who have already worked in bands 1-4 healthcare roles before they begin nursing degree programmes.

"It is imperative that the scope of the nursing associate role is clearly defined. Strong boundaries and standards must be put in place which both align with any planned changes to the NMC standards for the registered nurse, and do not undermine their role. If the scope of the nursing associate role includes medicines management, as has been proposed, then regulation through a relevant professional body is a must. Failure to do so may otherwise result in a downward spiral in terms of the care provided to patients, the very people for whom the NHS was established to serve."


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