Nursing associate numbers on target so far, despite concerns about low uptake

Government now faces challenge of achieving its ambitions for 2019 cohort   

Government now faces challenge of achieving its ambitions for 2019 cohort 

Student nursing associates. Picture: John Houlihan 

Targets for numbers of nursing associates in training were achieved in 2018, but a further 7,500 trainees are needed this year to meet workforce aims.

A total of 5,005 trainee nursing associates were recruited to training programmes in 2018, Health Education England (HEE) data show.

This comes despite earlier suggestions that the government was unlikely to meet its ambitious target for one of its flagship new routes into nursing.

The RCN has welcomed the achievement of last year's target but continues to warn that nursing associates must not be used to fill the gaps left by a chronic shortage of nurses.

Target figure for 2019

The nursing associate role, which sits at band 4 on the Agenda for Change pay scale, was created to fill the gap between healthcare support workers and nurses. By the end of this year, the government in England wants 14,500 people to have entered nursing associate training.

There were concerns over its ability to meet its 2018 target of 5,000 trainee nursing associates when only 1,018 had been recruited to training programmes by Easter. In 2017, the target for a cohort of 2,000 to begin the two-year training had been met.

Employers have repeatedly cited 'backfill' costs as a big hurdle when taking on nursing associate apprentices because the trainees must leave their workplace for training two days a week.


Commenting on the latest figures, HEE chief nurse Lisa Bayliss Pratt said: 'Many people are now seeing the wealth of opportunities the role can provide.'

RCN head of professional learning and development Anne Corrin welcomed the rise in the number of people choosing to train in the role.

Anne Corrin, head of professional learning and development at the RCN.

But she added: 'While the role offers career progression for support staff as well as providing a new route to become a registered nurse, it must not be seen as the only way to fill gaps created by the clear shortage of registered nurses.

'There remains a chronic shortage of nurses and this will ultimately only be fixed by a properly sustained investment in the entire workforce.'

'Fantastic achievement'

In January, the Nursing and Midwifery Council said around 1,800 were expected to qualify in 'the next few months'.

HEE chief executive Ian Cumming this week said that around 800 trainees would be fully qualified by April.

'Indications are that around 40% have expressed a desire to go on to become registered nurses, which is fantastic news for the NHS and for patients.'

Health minister Stephen Hammond said meeting the target was a 'fantastic achievement' by employers, trade unions, professional bodies and trainees. 

In other news

This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.