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Union issues warning as first nursing associates join the NMC register

The RCN has warned that nursing associates should not be used as a replacement for registered nurses.

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Newly-qualified nursing associates will be able to join the Nursing and Midwifery Council register from today.

In a ‘landmark’ move, nursing associates will become the latest addition to the health and care workforce in England today. The register is now open to the new profession, with around 1,800 nursing associates are expected to qualify over the course of the next few months.

The new role was developed by Health Education England (HEE) and has been designed to bridge the gap between health and care assistants and registered nurses.

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The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) claims the role is an attractive option to those who may have been working as healthcare assistants for a number of years and who want to progress. As well as being a new standalone role, it also offers an alternative route to becoming a registered nurse through further training.

Despite saying it welcomes the new role, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) the college has warned that nursing associates should not be used as a replacement for registered nurses and should only deliver care that has been ‘prescribed and evaluated by a registered nurse’.

Not a replacement.

In a statement, Patricia Marquis, England Director at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Nursing associates are a new addition to the clinical workforce in England, supporting registered nurses to provide safe and effective care. The role offers career progression for support staff as well as providing a new route to become a registered nurse.

“This is a valuable support role designed to work as part of the wider clinical team, however it is not a replacement for a registered nurse. Nursing associates will deliver and monitor care which has been prescribed and evaluated by a registered nurse.”

“With England facing a clear shortage of registered nurses, it is vital that employers do not attempt to fill any gaps with nursing associates. Nursing associates should never be asked to act outside their remit. This risks putting undue pressure on individuals, who must not be made to carry out duties that fall outside their regulated role. This would unfair and could potentially threaten patient safety.”

The College will be publishing guidance and resources aimed at nursing associates and registered nurses, to help support their integration into the workplace and career development.

Nurses can focus on ‘specialised areas’.

Health Minister Stephen Hammond MP, says the new role will help free up the time of registered nurses to focus on more specialised treatments.

In a statement he 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.

Adding; “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.”

A landmark moment.

Andrea Sutcliffe, the new Chief Executive and Registrar of the NMC, 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.” 

Ruth May, the Chief Nursing Officer for England also added that up to 5,000 trainee nursing associate were expected to start their training in 2018 with the Government aiming for a further 7,500 in 2019.

Currently, there are no plans to introduce the role in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

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Nursing vacancies hit record high leaving patient care at risk

It can be “dangerous” when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care.

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Patient Falls Risk with IV

There are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone.

NHS figures show that there are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The College says a global shortage of nurses alongside the removal of the nursing bursary has compounded this figure which now sees 12% of posts through the NHS in England without a full-time Registered Nurse.

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Figures from the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) show a 29% overall decline in applications to undergraduate courses since 2015, when the bursary was cut by the Government.

In a report released today titled ‘Standing up for patient and public safety’, the Royal College of Nursing outlines the evidence of the need for a new law that allocates specific legal responsibilities for workforce planning and supply.

A new law is needed.

The report states that in order to address the record number of vacancies, and the gap between the numbers of health and care staff needed to deliver patient care vs. how many are in the system.

Figures included in the report reveal that the number of nursing staff has consistently failed to keep up with the dramatic rise in demand for services and the number of emergency admissions.

The report finally makes a further call for legal clarity on the roles, responsibilities, as well as accountabilities, for workforce planning and supply.

In September, after pressure from RCN members, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked the Government for clarity over who is accountable for the nursing workforce.

‘Nurses are working harder than ever’.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “Nurses are working harder than ever to deliver safe patient care but are being held back by a system that is legally lacking teeth. Despite the public, patients and nurses all agreeing that clarity is needed on responsibilities for delivering enough nurses, we have yet to see any government pledge anything of the like, and as a result are staring down the barrel at a record 43k empty nursing posts.

“We know how dangerous it can be when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care, but at present, almost all accountability rests with the frontline nurse working on the understaffed ward, rather than those responsible for the system they work in.

“We believe the time has come for change and that patient care was future-proofed by law, and that from the government down, decision makers are held to account.

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NHS calls for clarity on who is accountable for the nursing workforce

Figures suggest there are around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies throughout the NHS in England.

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Working nurses in the CCU

Healthcare leaders are calling for legislation to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have called on the Government to clarify who is accountable for the nursing workforce and the chronic problems it’s currently facing.

Following ongoing pressure from nursing unions, the two organisations met today and recommend that the government should “revisit with partners whether national responsibilities and duties in relation to workforce functions are sufficiently clear.”

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With around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS in England and thousands more throughout social care, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) believes the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care should be legally accountable for the workforce.

Along with other health care leaders, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, written to the Government calling for the legislation proposed by NHS England and NHS Improvement to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

Staff shortages have reached ‘alarming levels’.

Responding to the news, Dame Donna Kinnair said: “We are pleased that NHS England and NHS Improvement has recognised the concerns of RCN members and the public and has stated that the issue of accountability for workforce planning and supply remains an area that needs be resolved.”

“In the week after we have launched a major public facing campaign calling for investment in the nursing workforce as well as for accountability to be clarified in the law, yet again, the case is made for this to be taken seriously.

“We are clear that government is well placed to determine how accountability can be clarified in law.

Adding; “Staff shortages have reached alarming levels with at least 40,000 vacant registered nurse posts in the NHS in England alone with thousands more vacancies in public health and social care.

“We now hope government will listen to this message, as well as the voices of the thousands of members that responded to the NHS England engagement process, and bring forward this legislation, taking the opportunity to include accountability in government and throughout the health and care system, for workforce planning and supply.”

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