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Nurse associate role “should be regulated” says HEE chief

28 January 2016

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The new nursing associate role should be regulated, Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England (HEE) said, as he revealed details of the new role.

This comes as he announced a consultation on the role, to gather the views of health professionals and ask what this role, temporarily called nurse associate, should be called permanently and how these people are trained.

He said: “I’ll give a personal view here. I believe that these people should be regulated; I believe they should be registered, because they will be interacting with patients. Obviously they’re not degree-level nurses so they won’t be registered there, but I believe they should be registered.”

Jackie Smith, chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) responded that the new role is “highly significant for the nursing professional” and that in terms of regulation “it will be vital that the role has the rigour to attract public confidence.”

Speaking at an event in London, Cumming said he wanted to “use this event today to announce a consultation we are launching on a new care role. This came out of a review that was undertaken to look at the shape of caring… Which gave a very, very, very clear message that there’s a need for a role that sits between the healthcare support worker and the degree-level registered nurse.”

He admitted that while “there isn’t 100% agreement” that the role should be created there was “significant agreement” to start the consultation – which will last for six weeks – to “look into this role and explore it more deeply.”

“This is not just about adult nursing it’s about mental health nursing, children’s nursing, and elderly nursing as well. This is not just a solution for hospitals; it’s also community plus all the other little branches,” he added.

People who have done the nurse associate role will be able to move anywhere in England, and employees can be confident about how they’ve been trained, what they’ve learnt and what they should be paid, adding consistency to the training.

“My working assumption is that these will be people working in our NHS and social care and healthcare support workers who are gaining competencies, gaining training whilst they are working, probably over a period of two years, at which stage they would achieve a qualification that provisionally we’re calling a higher care certificate,” Cumming explained.

HEE want to start training 1,000 people in 2016, 2,000 people in 2017, 4,000 people in 2018 and 5,000 people in 2019, meaning there could be 7,000 working nurse associates by 2020.