26/05/2016 00:01 BST | Updated 26/05/2017 06:12 BST

New Nursing Associate Role Given Green Light

A new "nursing associate" role to bridge the gap between healthcare assistants and fully qualified nurses has been given the green light.

Health Education England (HEE) said that there was "real appetite" for the role following a consultation.

HEE said 1,000 students will start training for the new role in 2017 across test sites.

Professor Lisa Bayliss Pratt, director of nursing and deputy director of education and quality at HEE, said: "Our consultation has shown that there is a real appetite for this role, which we firmly believe can provide a real benefit to the nursing and care workforce across a range of settings and play a key role in the delivery of patient care with safety at its heart.

"The role is neither a panacea for future workforce supply, or a substitute for increasing the supply of graduate registered nurses – and throughout the process we sought to reassure people that patient safety remains paramount and is a determining factor that underlines the role.

"We do need to protect what we value across the nursing and care profession but we also need to collectively agree that we can't always hold on to what we have done in the past – change is inevitable. The role will play an important part in the delivery of future healthcare and meet the diverse health needs of people up and down the country."

Health Minister Ben Gummer, who announced the role last year, added: "This new role will enhance patient care and open up a career in nursing for thousands of people, as well as providing opportunities for existing staff who want to progress to become registered nurses."

Donna Kinnair, director of nursing, policy & practice at the Royal College of Nursing, said: "Registered nurses are the backbone of care in this country. They are highly trained to assess, plan, and deliver nursing care, and their registration requires ongoing learning and supervision to maintain their skills.

"It's clear that there were widely shared concerns that the nursing associate role could be used as a substitute for registered nurses, and it is positive to see that HEE have acknowledged this worry.

"It's vital to have a supporting workforce who have a framework for progression and the ability to develop in their roles if that is what they want to do.

"The consultation responses make clear that there is a keen interest in getting the nursing associate role right, and the early test sites must be carefully monitored to ensure the new role can be introduced in a way that improves the safety and experience of patients."