NMC agrees to regulate nursing associate role

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) agrees to be regulator for new nursing associates.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has agreed to regulate the new nursing associate role.

It formally accepted a request by the Department of Health to regulate the role at a meeting of its ruling council on 25 January.

Nursing associates, who will require two years’ training and give hands-on care, are intended to sit between healthcare assistants, who are unregistered, and nurses. They will not independently review treatment plans or make decisions on care.

The role is controversial, with unions warning against it being used to replace registered staff.

What happens now

The NMC will now seek changes to legislation to enable it to set standards and a scope of practice framework.

The entire process is likely to take two years and cost around £4million – although the regulator has insisted this will not be covered by the £120 nurse registration fee. Instead, the NMC said it would require the government to fund the work. There will be a public consultation.

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith told the meeting she supported adding nursing associates to the register and believed no other regulator could do the job better.

She said: ‘The role of the NMC is to provide clarity for patients and the profession.

‘What matters to patients is knowing that the person caring for them has the skills and the competence to do the job. If someone else takes on the regulation, we will have no control over clarity, setting the standards and making it clear to nurse associates what we expect of them.’

First cohort

The first wave of 1,000 nursing associates began training at 11 test sites in England in December, overseen by Health Education England (HEE). A second cohort will begin training this year, and at present, the role is for England only. It is, said Ms Smith, ‘an England solution to an England problem’.

She added: ‘We must be clear we are not imposing this role on anyone, nor will we be in charge of how nurse associates are deployed.’

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