Wendy Leighton, Project Manager for the Regulated Professional Workforce at Skills for Care, and a registered nurse, discusses how the new nursing associate role is bridging the gap between care assistants and registered nurses in adult social care.
The reorganisation of care services – the ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ care is delivered – alongside high numbers of people requiring support with complex health and social care needs, requires a new approach to workforce planning and the delivery of nursing care in social care.
There may be around 41,000 registered nurses working in a range of establishments across the sector, but we cannot ignore the high vacancy rates and the estimated 580,000 new social care jobs that are predicted (by 2035) as a minimum to meet the needs of the growing population who will access care and support services
That means it’s the right time to think about planning our social care workforce and our approach to delivering nursing care. A new approach that brings new opportunities, progression, breaks down barriers and provides modern responses which will ultimately improve the quality of care.
Skills for Care is supporting employers to increase the number of nursing associates being trained and employed in social care settings. We’re working with sector colleagues to review the workforce, in light of both the new nursing associate role and the Future Nurse standards.
The nursing associate role is a non-field specific role that has a person’s journey at the heart of the curriculum, making this role ideal for many social care settings, rooted as it is in person-centred care.
Developed by Health Education England and regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the nursing associate programme is now into its third year. In January this year we saw the very first nursing associates enter the Nursing and Midwifery Council register – including a small number from social care.
It’s important to recognise that the role isn’t a substitute for a registered nurse. However, it’s a role that contributes to the delivery of nursing care. Skills for Care is keen to explore the potential for the role in a variety of settings and we’re working closely with regulators and sector representatives to test, challenge and innovate how the nursing associate can add value; testing approaches to the workforce planning and development.
This will potentially have impact on cost of agency cover, recruitment of care staff, retention of staff, internal progression and utilisation of nurses working at the ‘top’ end for their registration, rather than often working to ‘plug gaps’.
The ambition is that by employing a nursing associate this will free up the time of a registered nurse to focus on more complex nursing and leadership duties, enabling registered nurses to work at the upper limits of their registration, within a social care environment.
The Lincolnshire partnership has already seen three nursing associates become registered. So, to help employers and workers think about how they can get involved with the nursing associate role, Skills for Care has produced some short videos featuring a recently graduated nursing associate and the different organisations who have worked collaboratively to make the Lincolnshire programme a success for social care.
The videos look at how the local authority took a long-term strategic view when deciding to support the implementation of nursing associates in social care and how one care home owner saw a clear business case for getting on board.
In a workforce that will, by 2035 total over two million, nursing associates will play a key role in not only bridging the gap between care assistants and registered nurses but make sure that our fellow citizens’ complex needs can be met in a way that best suits them and contributes to our registered nurses working at their upper limits of the role aligned with the Future Nurse standards.
Find out more
For more information about the nursing associate role and to watch the videos visit www.skillsforcare.org.uk/nursingassociates .
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