Nursing associates

A new role in the nursing team

In October 2015 the UK Government announced the establishment of a new care role in England, called a nursing associate. This role has been developed as a bridge between health care assistants and graduate registered nurses. The Government’s intention is that this will be a stand-alone role as well as a new route to becoming a registered nurse.

At the end of 2016 the Secretary of State for Health asked the NMC to regulate nursing associates and in January 2017 our Council agreed to this request. A busy programme of work is now underway as we prepare to take on the regulation of nursing associates.

The role of the NMC

The NMC has not created nursing associates but we are responsible for their professional regulation. We are positive about the benefits to patients and the public of regulating nursing associates and we welcome the support in the sector for regulation. 

The Department of Health took the decision to develop this new role and Health Education England has been lead a pilot of nursing associate training programmes. There are other organisations that will support and monitor the safe and effective deployment of nursing associates across a range of health and care settings.

Nursing associates in practice

The intention is for nursing associates, to support registered nurses in the delivery of nursing care to patients and service users.  The standards of proficiency for nursing associates will be aligned with the new standards for registered nurses, which we recently consulted on. This will allow smooth progression for those nursing associates who want to become registered nurses in the future. It will also make it easy to see the distinctions between the nursing associate and registered nurse roles.

How to become a nursing associate

Health Education England, the body responsible for training healthcare staff in England, is supporting 35 test sites across England to deliver education and training to 2,000 trainee nursing associates. We expect the first nursing associates to complete their training and start work in early 2019.

The Secretary of State of Health announced in October 2017 there will be a further 5,000 nursing associate places in 2018, and 7,500 in 2019. These are likely to be nursing associate apprenticeships. A nursing associate apprenticeship standard has been developed by an employer-led group. Further information about the next nursing associate cohorts will be available soon.

In the meantime if you are currently employed as a healthcare assistant you can express your interest in career progression to your employer and seek their advice on options available to you.

Early working draft standards of proficiency

In September, our Council agreed to release an early working draft of the nursing associate standards of proficiency  in order to help those involved in the test sites to understand and prepare for our likely expectations of those joining the new nursing associate part of our register.

It’s important to remember that this is an early draft of the standards and it will change, in advance of the public consultation in Spring 2018, and in response to the feedback we receive from that consultation.

Regulation of nursing associates in England consultation

The Department of Health has launched a public consultation to seek views on changing our legislation to enable us to regulate nursing associates. The Regulation of nursing associates in England consultation will run from 12 October to 26 December.

Keep checking our website for further opportunities to help develop the standards and requirements for nursing associates over the coming months.