Lack of clarity over nursing associates ‘could jeopardise patient care’

The Royal College of Nursing says that the ill-defined role places unfair pressure nursing associates to act beyond their training.

Chloe Dawson
10 July 2018
student and staff nurse

The role of the nursing associate remains ill-defined and staff could be pressurised into fulfilling duties outside their remit, the RCN has warned.

The Royal College of Nursing has issued a stark warning in response to the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) consultation on regulation of the new role.


The union has repeatedly concerns about employers replacing registered nurses with nursing associates. The college claims to already aware of a number of employers planning to reduce costs in this way, which could have a serious detrimental impact on the quality of patient care.

Health Education England says the nursing associate role is designed to “bridge the gap” which sits between healthcare assistants (HCAs) and registered nurses.

Concerns over training.

The RCN has admitted the role could prove a valuable addition to the healthcare workforce but has concerns remain over substitution and training.

The RCN remains concerned that the role remains ill-defined and says that it could lead to nursing associates being asked to perform duties outside the remit of a support role, putting undue pressure on individuals and affecting patient care.


The College has called for trainee nursing associates to have supernumerary status, allowing them the space and time to learn.

Whilst the RCN say they support the need for nursing associates to be able to work across a range of settings, they say the proposed standards do not provide sufficient guidance on what is expected of the generic role.

Ambiguity around the role must be removed.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said:  “We are determined to see the successful integration of nursing associates into our current workforce and we will play our part in the getting this right.

“Nursing associates must be a clearly designed role to complement the existing healthcare workforce and supporting our registered nurses.   


“To ensure safe and effective patient care, nursing associate training must be consistent across England, and nursing associates must have supernumerary status while they train.

“For everybody’s sake, the ambiguity around the role must be removed, with nursing associates working under delegation from a registered nurse. A lack of clarity over the scope and nature of the job could jeopardise patient care, and place unfair pressure on support staff asked to act beyond their training.

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