Chief nursing officer 'sets record straight' on nursing associates

England's chief nursing officer Jane Cummings has hit back at claims the new nursing associate role is a 'cheap replacement for nurses'.

England's chief nursing officer Jane Cummings has hit back at claims the new nursing associate role is a 'cheap replacement for nurses'.

The nursing associate role, which will require two years of training and involve hands-on care delivery, is intended to sit between those of healthcare assistants and registered nurses.

Professor Jane Cummings
Professor Jane Cummings has hit back at the nursing associate claims
 Picture: Barney Newman

The first 1,000 nursing associates will begin training this month.

Union Unison has previously warned the new role should not be 'nursing on the cheap', while the RCN said it was 'seriously worried'  about the speed at which the role was being developed.

Not a replacement

In a blog post, professor Cummings insisted the role was not a replacement for a registered nurse.

'A nursing associate is not a registered nurse and will not replace them, but they will instead have the training and skills to bridge the gap between what a healthcare assistant can do and what a registered nurse is now needed to do,' she wrote in a blog dated 1 December.

'Critics have suggested that this is a cheap replacement for nurses – this is not and must not be the case. This is an opportunity for thousands of talented people to take the first step on the ladder – not just to a job, but to a rewarding lifelong career.

'For nurses, they will have additional support and more time available to perform the role they are trained to do, assessing, treating and caring for more complex patients.

'For healthcare assistants and those who want a career in nursing it provides a new route to achieve this, giving them more skills and competencies with a structured education programme and the potential to go further and become a graduate nurse.

'For those we care for this means that they will continue to receive the safe, high quality, compassionate care they deserve.'

Reflecting patient need

Professor Cummings added that numbers of registered nurses and nursing associates would reflect patient need. For example, in an emergency department with lots of patients who need intensive clinical care, there will be more registered nurses, she said.

'But in an area where less complex care is needed, there may be more nursing associates, freeing up registered nurses to be where they are needed most,' she added.

Nursing associates will also be able to administer medicines, but only if suitably trained and competent. 

NMC regulations

Last week health secretary Jeremy Hunt called for the role to be regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

He added that by allowing nursing associates to administer medicines, ‘means a stronger regime of assurance is necessary to ensure safe and effective clinical practice.'

‘Nursing associates are not there to replace registered nurses, but to support and complement them,’ he said.

‘But I have listened carefully to what has been said and agree that, on balance, statutory professional regulation is a necessary and proportionate requirement for this important new role.’

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