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Trainee nursing associates may not have supernumerary status, says NMC

Nursing associates who are learning while training may not have supernumerary status at their own place of work, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has confirmed.

New standards for pre-reg nursing associate programmes, ratified today by the NMC at their September council meeting, state that course providers will have two options to ensure protected learning time for students.

Providers can still choose to give supernumerary status to trainees at their own place of work, but the NMC have also provided a second option for institutions, whereby they do not have to give trainees supernumerary status while at work. Instead, it will be left to course providers to ‘demonstrate how they will protect a defined amount of time to be spent learning in practice’, with only protected learning time counting towards programme hours.

The decision to give providers an alternative to supernumerary status was taken after the standards were put out for consultation. While 66% of respondents agreed with supernumerary being a requirement for pre-registration programmes, it was only four percentage points greater than the 62% who felt that the NMC should be allowed to take a different approach to protected learning time on placement.

The NMC claim that leaving protected learning time in the hands of course providers will ‘place greater onus on NMC quality assurance to scrutinise how learning time will be protected', and on institutions 'to ensure students benefit from appropriate learning opportunities'.

The NMC will evaluate the second option in 2019. 

Trainees will still undergo placements away from their usual place of work, where they will be supernumerary and employers will not be able to count them towards staff numbers.

But the decision to offer a second option to course providers was met with opposition from the Royal College of Nursing, who described the approach as ‘ill-defined’.

Acting chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘We have significant concerns around the NMC’s decision not to treat trainee nursing associates as supernumerary. The alternative protected learning time is ill-defined and without an overarching quality assurance framework, it is hard to see how nursing staff, educators and the public can be confident in this approach.

‘There is a strong rationale that supernumerary status allows nursing staff to learn effectively and safely. Any move away from this approach must be supported by robust evidence and planning.’