Trainee nursing associates could be included in ‘minimum safe staffing numbers’

Nursing Associates could be included within minimum staffing numbers in order to ‘adequately safeguard patients’.

Ian Snug
24 September 2018
student nurses learning

Proposed changes mean training nursing associates may be included within ‘minimum staffing numbers’.

New proposals from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) mean that Nursing Associates could be included within minimum staffing numbers in order to “adequately safeguard patients”.


Proposed changes meaning NHS trusts would be given a choice in how they deliver training to nursing associates.

One option would be the traditional supernumerary model – where students are extra to the minimum number of staff required for safety and the same as student nurses.

A new second option would see trainee nursing associates included within ‘minimum staffing levels’ but trusts would need to demonstrate to the NMC how students would receive “appropriate learning time”.

The NMC says the second option would give employers a better idea of the costs associated with nursing associate apprenticeships” and the ability to allocate learning time around service pressures.


The Apprentice Levy.

NMC Council papers reveal that “The NMC has been encouraged to consider the possible impact of supernumerary status on the take-up of nursing associate opportunities.” as the apprentice levy, which funds nursing associate training, can only be spent directly on the training of nursing associates rather than backfilling gaps during supernumerary periods.

However, a survey completed by NursingNotes of 412 trainee nursing associates reveals that 91 per cent believe they would have ‘increased learning opportunities’ with a more traditional supernumerary status. 72% said they had missed learning opportunities because they were unable to be released from practice.

Only 1 in 20 respondents said they were classed as supernumerary in practice.

The regulator has published new standards for the role which are due to be approved by the NMC later this month.


The NMC has confirmed that nursing associates will be subject to the same conditions of practice as registered nurses; adherence to the code of conduct, revalidation, registration fees and fitness to practice proceedings in the event something goes wrong.

Keeping patients safe.

Geraldine Walters, Director of Education and Standards at the NMC said: “It’s clear from what we’ve seen and heard that trainee nursing associates are appreciated by those they’re caring for, and that the nurses they are working alongside recognise the potential of the role now and in the future.

“We know just how important it is that students who are training ‘on the job’ have time away from their everyday duties to learn. We’re confident that the plans we’ve outlined today will not only support students to learn and keep patients safe but also work for employers too.

“We look forward to seeing the first qualified nursing associates caring for people across England from January next year.”

‘Significant Concerns’.

Donna Kinnair, acting Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We have significant concerns around the NMC’s decision not to treat trainee nursing associates as supernumerary. The alternative protected learning time is ill-defined and without an overarching quality assurance framework, it is hard to see how nursing staff, educators and the public can be confident in this approach.


“There is a strong rationale that supernumerary status allows nursing staff to learn effectively and safely. Any move away from this approach must be supported by robust evidence and planning.”

The first set of registered nursing associates are due to qualify in pilot sites in January 2019.

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