By: 4 February 2019
Major milestone reached as first registered nursing associates join health and care workforce

The first qualified nursing associates became the latest addition to the health and care workforce in England recently, after the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) opened its register to the new profession.

Around 1,800 nursing associates are expected to qualify over the course of the next few months. The nursing associate role bridges the gap between unregulated healthcare assistants and registered nurses. The role was announced by the Government in 2016 and was developed by Health Education England (HEE).

Nursing associates will support better, safer care for people of all ages and in a variety of health and social care settings, from care homes and A&E to schools, and GP surgeries.

They will work as part of the wider health and care team, contributing to the core work of nursing, delivering care independently and carrying out a range of activities from administering medication, and dressing wounds to promoting healthy lifestyle choices and wellbeing.

The role will help to free up registered nurses to focus on more complex care duties.

The introduction of nursing associates is also helping to widen access to the health and care professions by opening up new routes to training that previously didn’t exist. Trainees are able to earn while they learn, via an apprenticeship, making it an attractive option, particularly for those who may have been working as healthcare assistants for a number of years and who want to progress.

While qualified nursing associates may chose to remain in the role permanently, others will want to go on to train to become nurses.

NMC Chief Executive and Registrar, Andrea Sutcliffe, said: “Today is a landmark moment, and I’m delighted to welcome the first nursing associates on to our register.

“The high standards that we set will ensure that this new profession plays a vital role in supporting registered nurses, promoting health and wellbeing and improving safety and the quality of care in England in the years to come.”

Health Minister, Stephen Hammond said: “Today marks an exciting milestone with the start of thousands of nursing associates joining the NHS over the coming years – bringing with them valuable skills which will have a hugely beneficial impact on patients. They will support nurses to deliver safe, high-quality care, crucially freeing up their time to focus on more specialised areas of patient treatment.

“Our decision to regulate nursing associates is not only a recognition of the enormous contribution they make, but will empower them to work to their full potential and place them on a firm foundation for a long and successful career in the NHS.”

Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive, Health Education England said: “The first group of nursing associates moving from training into work as registered professionals is a major milestone for the individuals who have worked hard to get to this stage and the NHS and patients who will benefit from this newly regulated profession.

“I am particularly proud of the part HEE has played in the creation, design and testing of this key role as an exciting and valuable addition to the nursing workforce. I have already seen first-hand just how much of an impact these colleagues are having and am confident that impact will grow in the coming years.

“Many nursing associates have already proved their values and behaviours having previously worked as health and care assistants and I know many of them have aspirations to continue to learn and become registered nurses in the future.

“Wherever they have come from, wherever they end up, they will make a real difference to the patients they care for and I could not be more proud of them as they become key members of the multidisciplinary workforce across health and social care.”

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “I would like to welcome the first nursing associates into the workforce who will play an essential role, both for patient care and in supporting the entire nursing profession.

“As part of the Long Term Plan, we are making the NHS a better place to work for all professional groups, where staff have opportunities to develop their careers and where their expertise is used to maximum effect.”

Up to 5,000 trainee nursing associates were expected to start their training in 2018 with the Government aiming for a further 7,500 in 2019.