The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) will take on responsibility for regulating nursing associates, it confirmed today.
The regulator debated whether it was the right organisation to regulate the new role at its council meeting in central London today (25 January), after being asked to do so by health secretary Jeremy Hunt in November.
The NMC anticipates that it will begin regulating nursing associates in two years.
The NMC estimates the costs of regulating nursing associates will be £4m – money it says should be covered by the government, rather than fees from registered nurses.
The expectation of covering these costs is ‘understood’ by the Department of Health, the NMC said in its council papers, published ahead of the meeting.
The first trainee nursing associates began training this month, and another cohort of 1,000 will begin training later this year.
Nursing associates training before the NMC begins formally regulating the role in two years’ time will be made aware of the standards they will be expected to meet as registered professionals throughout their training, NMC chief executive Jackie Smith told Nursing in Practice.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive and general secretary, Janet Davies, welcomed the news as ‘a very positive step forward’.
She said: ‘A regulated support staff means nurses can delegate some tasks with confidence to nursing associates.
‘The nursing associate role is an opportunity to provide support to nurses and improve care. But it’s vital that despite the financial pressures, NHS trusts do not replace registered nurses with nursing associates to save on costs.’
Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, director of nursing and national deputy director of education and quality at Health Education England called the decision ‘an important step in the journey for this exciting new role’.
‘The role will establish a clear pathway for aspiring nurses, through education and training and supported by regulation it will give confidence to patients and employers that it is an important part of the NHS workforce,’ she added.