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Nursing associates will be valuable but cannot replaced registered nurses

After years of campaigning for better training, regulation and opportunities for healthcare support workers, the new nursing associate role could be a welcome initiative.

After years of campaigning for better training, regulation and opportunities for healthcare support workers, the new nursing associate role could be a welcome initiative.

Health Education England’s consultation on the role, which is open until March 11, gives us all an opportunity to help shape it. But the post comes at a time when nurses are hard to recruit, and organisations are experiencing unprecedented financial pressures – so there is a danger that we could slip back into a culture where finance is the number one priority and quality is ignored.

Although the Safe Nurse Staffing Levels Bill continues to progress in Wales, there has been less clarity in England, particularly since the crucial safe staffing work from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence was suspended. Without the right staffing levels, safe, high quality care for all is simply not achievable.

Despite significant progress in health care and education, we still struggle to get recognition that modern nursing is a complex role requiring high levels of skills and knowledge, as well as compassion. It is no coincidence that this new ‘apprenticeship’ model comes at a time when the budget for training our future graduates has been removed.

Nursing associates will play a key supportive role, but they cannot replace registered nurses. If the funds needed to deliver appropriate nursing care are not provided, it is time for honesty about the kind of care we can expect from the NHS.

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