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Draft proficiency standards for nursing associates to be published

The standards of proficiency that nursing associates may be expected to meet before they can qualify will make a clear distinction between their role and registered nurses.
Geraldine Walters

New draft standards of proficiency for nursing associates will make a clear distinction between the role and that of registered nurses, says the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The unusual step to issue a working draft of the standards to sites training students for the role was agreed by NMC members during its council meeting today (Wednesday 27 September).

There are 2,000 students on Health Education England (HEE)-backed two-year courses training for the new role, which is intended to be a bridge between registered nurses and healthcare assistants.

30 pilot sites

There are over 30 pilot sites across England the only one of the four UK countries intending to use nursing associates.

Training had begun even before the NMC accepted a personal request from health secretary Jeremy Hunt to regulate

New draft standards of proficiency for nursing associates will make a clear distinction between the role and that of registered nurses, says the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).


Nursing and Midwifery Council director Geraldine Walters. Picture: Barney Newman

The ‘unusual step’ to issue a working draft of the standards to sites training students for the role was agreed by NMC members during its council meeting today (Wednesday 27 September).

There are 2,000 students on Health Education England (HEE)-backed two-year courses training for the new role, which is intended to be a bridge between registered nurses and healthcare assistants.

30 pilot sites

There are over 30 pilot sites across England – the only one of the four UK countries intending to use nursing associates.

Training had begun even before the NMC accepted a personal request from health secretary Jeremy Hunt to regulate the role and there had been some confusion about the skills and knowledge required and precisely what jobs graduates would be expected to perform.

But NMC director of nursing and midwifery Geraldine Walters told the meeting: ‘We are doing this because we want the pilot sites to see our direction of travel.’

Although the standards cannot be published until they are received by the pilot sites, Nursing Standard can reveal they fall into six distinct categories.

Clear distinction

Council member, and executive nurse director at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Ruth Walker told the meeting the standards provided ‘clear blue water’ between nurse associates and registered nurses.

Ms Walters also assured members steps would be taken ‘to ensure the standards apply across all fields of nursing’ including mental health and learning disabilities.

NMC chair Dame Janet Finch added: ‘We are releasing these now to be helpful to education sites.

‘It’s right we should do that, but it is important to point out they are only a draft and there are likely to be significant changes made.’

Spring 2018

A public consultation on the standards is expected in Spring 2018 and formal adoption likely in autumn of the same year.

Responding to a question from the audience, NMC chief executive Jackie Smith insisted the estimated £1 million cost to the regulator of preparing to regulate the role would still be met by the Department of Health.

She also acknowledged ‘there is a risk which needs to be managed’ that those already studying for the role could potentially fail to meet the standards once they had been agreed.

HEE will handle the appointment of an independent assessor to provide quality assurance for the nursing associate role.

An NMC spokesperson said it would take 'a few weeks' before the standards were officially published.


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