England’s chief nursing officer (CNO) has publically disputed the claims that the new nursing associate role is a way of hiring cheaper nurses.
“Critics have suggested that this is a cheap replacement for nurses – this is not and must not be the case,” CNO Jane Cummings said in a blog for NHS England last week (1 December).
“This is an opportunity for thousands of talented people to take the first step on the ladder – not just to a job, but to a rewarding lifelong career,” she added.
Concerns over new role
Unison has previously warned that the new role should not be “nursing on the cheap”, and the RCN said it was “seriously worried” about the speed at which the role was being developed.
The role, which will see 2,000 trainees by mid-2017, was only announced in May. A public consultation on the position – held from 28 January to 12 March – raised some concerns that staff and patients would confuse it with registered nurses.
Professor Cummings said: “A nursing associate is not a registered nurse and will not replace them, but they will instead have the training and skills to bridge the gap between what a healthcare assistant can do and what a registered nurse is now needed to do.”
Introducing nursing associates will mean more time available for nurses to treat complex issues and better patient care, she said.
Professor Cummings added that nursing associate numbers would reflect patient need. In an A&E with lots of patients who need intensive clinical care, for example, there would be more registered nurses.
“But in an area where less complex care is needed, there may be more nursing associates, freeing up registered nurses to be where they are needed most,” she said.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for the role to be regulated by the NMC particularly because of the nursing associate being trained to administer medicines.