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Nursing associates declare worth in Covid-19 crisis

Nursing crossing arms.


Nursing associates have said they play a valuable role in tackling coronavirus as a survey reveals just 40% of practice nurses would hire them.

Nursing associates have said they play a valuable role in tackling Covid-19 as a survey reveals just 40% of practice nurses would hire them.

The annual State of Primary Care report, released this month by Nursing in Practice’s publishers Cogora, found 231 of 577 GP nurses, including ANPs – would consider hiring a nursing associate. Thirteen per cent said they would not and 43% did not know.

A total of 3,610 healthcare professionals responded to the survey, containing a question on nursing associates, which was carried out during November and December last year – before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The nursing associate role – designed to help bridge the gap between health and care assistants and registered nurses – has proved controversial since it was first suggested in 2015 because of concerns it would lead to nursing on the cheap.

But nursing associates have told Nursing in Practice they are ‘perfectly placed’ to support nursing teams and health care assistants during the coronavirus crisis.

Alicia Langdown, a nursing associate at The Adam Practice in Dorset, in a blog for Nursing in Practice, said: ‘As Covid-19’s impact on the NHS evolves, I felt excited to be able to register as a nursing associate only this month.

‘I feel confident that in my new role, I am not only able to support the nursing team but also the patients that we see, being able to provide a more holistic assessment and extended skills to them.’

Ian Costello, a nursing associate who has been redeployed from a forensic medium care facility and now helps care for older patients for Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation Trust, said nursing associates can help with activities such as physical observations in acute care settings.

‘Nursing associates are perfectly placed to help support health care assistants and those returning back to the NHS with the provision of support and supervision during this difficult and unprecedented times,’ he explained.

‘This helps release times for registered nurses, enabling them to focus on those patients who are critically unwell and require more increased nursing care.’

Clare Mechan, a nurse at The Adam Practice in Dorset, said that having a nursing associate has been ‘valuable’ during the pandemic.

She explained: ‘It enables the practice to offer a full range of clinical care and allows the nursing team to respond to the current challenges and clinical demands, both in practice and in the local community.’

But practice managers – 54% of 646 answered ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’ to the survey question – have told Nursing in Practice that the pressure of the coronavirus outbreak has not changed their minds.

Wynford Morgan, business manager at Penistone Group Practice in Sheffield, said: ‘The structure and workload of the practice does not currently suit a nursing associate.’

A practice manager in North Yorkshire, who wished to remain anonymous, explained: ‘Too often, nursing associates have secondary care skills and it takes the best part of a year to get them to really contribute to our patient needs.’

They added there was ‘not enough for our nursing team to do’ during the Covid-19 outbreak and some staff have been asked to ‘stay at home each day’.

The State of Primary Care survey also revealed that an overwhelming majority of primary care nurses support compulsory vaccination and that many practices did not triage before Covid-19.

In addition, it found a third of practice nurses have not asked for a pay rise or better terms and conditions in their current role – though some GPNs feel the outbreak showed they deserve better.

The 3,610 healthcare professionals who responded to the survey included practice nurses, advanced nurse practitioners and other primary care professionals