The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has been asked by the Government to regulate the new nursing associate role.
The NMC are expected to be tasked with regulating the associates in the same way that they currently do for register nurses.
In a speech at the NHS Providers conference, Jeremy Hunt said because nursing associates will be able to administer medicines, a “stronger regime of assurance” will be necessary to ensure safe and effective clinical practice.
The health secretary called the statutory regulation of the new position a “necessary and proportionate requirement”.
The NMC has previously said that it is capable of taking on the additional regulation but said that the final decision lay with the Department of Health. The NMC council will now make its final decision early in the new year.
“Nursing associates are not there to replace registered nurses but to support and complement them,” Hunt said. “But I have listened carefully to what has been said and I agree that, on balance, statutory professional regulation is a necessary and proportionate requirement for this important role.”
Reacting to the speech, NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said: “There is strong support for the nursing associate role and the Department of Health has today decided that it is a role which requires regulation.
“As an organisation we are well equipped to take on the role of the regulator, however, this decision will be made by our council at its meeting 25 January,” she said.
Professor Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, said: “By asking the NMC to regulate the role, the secretary of state is establishing a clear pathway for aspiring nurses, through education and training, supported by regulation that can give confidence to patients and employers that this will be an important role in our NHS workforce of the future.”
RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said: “We welcome the announcement that the Nursing and Midwifery Council will oversee the professional regulation of the proposed nursing associate role.”
In the same speech, Hunt confirmed that degree-level nurse apprenticeships will begin in September to further add to the nursing workforce.