RCN council pledges to investigate impact of nursing associate role

RCN council chair Michael Brown responds to debate about the new role of nursing associate and whether it should be registered

The effects of introducing nursing associates to a health service already crowded with assistant practitioners and healthcare assistants (HCAs) is to be explored at the highest level in the RCN.

RCN council chair Michael Brown made the announcement to congress this week during a discussion on the new role proposed by the college's health practitioners committee.

RCN council chair Michael Brown
RCN council chair Michael Brown speaking at RCN congress. Picture: John Houlihan

In total, 1000 nursing associates are expected to be in post by 2017. The role, proposed by the government last year, was designed to sit between those of HCAs and registered nurses. It was subject to a public consultation that ended in March.

Role registration

The RCN congress debate focused mainly on whether the new role should be registered, an issue the Nursing and Midwifery Council has confirmed it is in discussions about.

Addressing the main hall at Glasgow's SECC, associate practitioner Shane Byrne described nursing associates as a rehash of the assistant practitioner role.

Nursing student Sophie Lynn asked if the introduction would diminish training opportunities ‘in an already strained NHS’, while Greater Liverpool and Knowsley nurse Richard Holtby was anxious that HCAs would not be barred from becoming nurse associates.

'Huge interest'

Mr Brown assured nurses that the RCN is taking a 'huge interest' in the issue.

Results from the Health Education England consultation show that most of the 1,384 respondents – who include nurses, healthcare assistants and representatives from professional bodies – welcomed the new role.

HEE director of nursing Lisa Bayliss-Pratt said: ‘The role is neither a panacea for future workforce supply, nor a substitute for increasing the supply of graduate registered nurses.’

HEE is due to hold five workshops next month to determine the scope of practice for the new role.

Further information:

RCN congress debate on nursing associates

Nursing Standard: Plans for nursing associate role gather pace

HEE response to nurse associate consultation

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