What is a nursing associate?

A new role within the nursing team

A nursing associate is a new member of the nursing team who will provide care and support for patients and service users. This role is being used and regulated in England and it’s intended to address a skills gap between health and care assistants and registered nurses.

Nursing associate is a stand-alone role in its own right and will also provide a progression route into graduate level nursing.

Nursing associates will be trained to work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings. It’s intended that the role will enable registered nurses to focus on more complex clinical duties.

How was the nursing associate role developed?

In 2015, Health Education England's Shape of Caring review , identified a gap in skills and knowledge between health care assistants and registered nurses.

Health Education England consulted on the nature and purpose of the new role and the government confirmed that it would be a generic role, meaning that qualified nursing associates would have skills and knowledge across the fields of nursing.

Level 5 has been determined as the academic level appropriate for nursing associates, which typically represents two years of higher education.

Most people who responded to the HEE consultation were in favour of regulation of nursing associates by us. There was a strong view that without regulation, the role might not be used to its full scope. The Secretary of State agreed that regulation was needed to protect the public and asked us to regulate the role.

What will a nursing associate know and be able to do?

Our nursing associate standards of proficiency will set out what all nursing associates know and can do when they join the register. We’re consulting on those standards and we'd like you to share your views.  

Once qualified and registered, nursing associates will give care in a range of settings within health and social care. Like nurses and other health professionals, they may expand their scope of practice through further education and experience.

Nurse leaders in England have been clear in a joint statement that the intention is for nursing associates to support not substitute for nurses and emphasised that by having a more highly educated and skilled support staff should enable better use to be made of graduate nurse resources. 

Introducing nursing associates

There are 2,000 student nursing associates at 35 Health Education England test sites across England who are undergoing a two year education and training programme. A further 5,000 new starts are planned for 2018.

The first nursing associates will qualify and apply for registration with us from January 2019. They’ll join a new nursing associate part of the register – they won’t be registered as nurses.

A further 5,000 will start programmes in 2018 and 7,500 in 2019.

We've created a timeline to mark the key development milestones.