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Unions raise concern over ‘therapy associate’ role

Health Education England may consider a ‘bridging role’ that combines nursing and therapy.
patient in physio

Concern has been raised about the possible introduction of a role that would combine nursing skills with those of occupational or physiotherapists.

Health Education England (HEE), which plans national healthcare workforce strategy, said it might investigate the desirability of a therapy associate role. Chief executive Ian Cumming has told HEE board members this might happen once the organisation has evaluated the nursing associate role.

A pilot is underway for the nursing associate role, which is intended to sit between healthcare assistants and nurses. The first cohort of 1,000 nursing associates began training in December 2016, with a further 1,000 due to start this year.

Piecemeal approach

Unison national officer for health Helga Pile said there should be a comprehensive workforce strategy before any new roles are considered.

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Concern has been raised about the possible introduction of a role that would combine nursing skills with those of occupational or physiotherapists.


Nursing and physio skills might be combined in a new role Photo: iStock

Health Education England (HEE), which plans national healthcare workforce strategy, said it might investigate the desirability of a ‘therapy associate’ role. Chief executive Ian Cumming has told HEE board members this might happen once the organisation has evaluated the nursing associate role.

A pilot is underway for the nursing associate role, which is intended to sit between healthcare assistants and nurses. The first cohort of 1,000 nursing associates began training in December 2016, with a further 1,000 due to start this year.

‘Piecemeal approach’

Unison national officer for health Helga Pile said there should be a comprehensive workforce strategy before any new roles are considered.

‘It does come across as quite a piecemeal approach,’ she said. ‘The nursing associate role has been put into play and now it is “we could try this in a different area”.’

Ms Pile said there must be ‘early conversations’ with stakeholders before going any further.

How would role differ?

RCN deputy director of nursing Stephanie Aiken questioned how therapy associates would differ from existing nursing associates and assistant practitioners.

She said: ‘We want to see what HEE’s evaluation of the nursing associate role is and how it is tested, to help us understand if we need another associate role.’

Professor Cumming said no work had yet been done to consider any therapy associate role in detail. He added: ‘If we were to take this forward we would, of course, ensure there was full engagement with key stakeholders and partners.’

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