New ‘associate nurse’ role won’t solve nursing shortages, Unison warns

NHS plans to introduce a new nursing role will not solve the drastic shortage of skilled nurses across the health service, Unison has warned, and risks adding greater confusion for patients.
 
The union said the government must not divert from the “pressing need to increase the supply of nurses” and should instead invest in better training, and development of existing health care assistants (HCAs).
 
In December 2015, health minister Ben Gummer announced plans to create a new nursing support role, provisionally entitled ‘nursing associate’, which would sit between healthcare support workers and fully qualified registered nurses.
 
Staff would receive on the job training via an apprenticeship, leading to a foundation degree, and would primarily “support nurses to spend more time using their specialist training to focus on clinical duties and take more of a lead in decisions about patient care”, Gummer said.
 
But Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea said: “We already have health care assistants, assistant practitioners and registered nurses on wards and in the community. There is real scope for further patient confusion with the introduction of a new role.”
 
The government-backed Centre for Workforce Intelligence has predicted the NHS is likely to have 47,500 fewer nurses than it needs by 2016.
 

A consultation on the specifics of the role, including the title, has been launched.