Nursing associates

A new care role in the nursing family

In October 2015 the UK Government announced the establishment of a new care role in England, called a nursing associate. This new role has been developed as a bridge between health care assistants and graduate registered nurses. The 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 last year the Secretary of State for Health formally requested that the NMC be the regulator for nursing associates and in January 2017 our Council agreed to this request. We are now at the beginning of a busy programme of work as we prepare to take on the regulation of nursing associates.

We are working closely with Health Education England (HEE), the body responsible for training healthcare staff in England, who is running nursing associate pilots. There are 35 test sites across England delivering training to 2,000 trainee nursing associates and their training will begin early this year. We expect the first nursing associates to complete their training and start work in early 2019.

Registered nurses and nursing associates

The intention is for nursing associates, who will have foundation degrees, to contribute to the delivery of patient care. The registered nurse will still have responsibility as the primary assessor, planner and evaluator of care. Nursing associates will support, not replace, registered nurses.

How to become a nursing associate

Now that the NMC has agreed to regulate nursing associates we are preparing to set our own regulatory standards and framework for education. At the moment there are no plans for further HEE-funded pilots of nursing associate programmes. The next opportunity to be involved in the new role will most likely be via an apprenticeship route. Work on this is starting this spring.

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.

The role of the NMC

The nursing associate is a new member of the nursing family and, as the regulator of nurses, we recognise the benefits of the NMC regulating this role. There has been strong external support for the NMC to be the regulator and as an organisation we are well-equipped to take on this role.

The Department of Health is responsible for the decision to create this new role and Health Education England has been leading on its development. We will continue to work closely with stakeholders, including the Department of Health and Health Education England, to ensure the successful development and implementation of this new role.

We are responsible for professional regulation of nursing associates. It will fall to employers and system regulators to ensure that the role is deployed safely and effectively.