The first tranche of training for a new kind of nursing role at Frimley Health has begun.
In time there will be some 150-200 nursing associates in the trust, helping to ensure the right skill mix of nursing staff in clinical areas for the best patient care. It is one of the ways the trust is addressing a national shortage of registered nurses available to the NHS.
The two-year course at Frimley Health, run in partnership with Buckinghamshire New University and the University of West London, was over-subscribed with 130 staff applying for the 60 places available on the first tranche of nursing associates during 2018.
Nationally there is a shortage of around 40,000 nurses, leading to high vacancy rates in many trusts. The south and south-east regions are under particular pressure because of the high cost of living.
The new role was developed nationally to address this with support and recognition from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
Director of Nursing Duncan Burton said many healthcare assistant who wanted to get into nursing roles were among those now training.
“There may be all sorts of reason why this role might appeal to someone. If a traditional route in nursing doesn’t appeal or isn’t an option, this offers another pathway into nursing, and is a new opportunity for career development. For others it will be an ends in its own right to provide a new career role to support patients and the wider nursing body.
“With so many nursing vacancies nationally I think this will be a great option that will enhance our patient care and allow us to develop careers. We will have less reliance on agency, which will be better for efficiency and consistent patient care.
“Crucially with the role recognised by the NMC, nursing associates will be professionally accountable for maintaining their registration and skill levels, and the care that they provide.”
A fully qualified nurse in an NHS acute hospital will typically begin at a band 5. Once qualified, the new nursing associate posts will be band 4 in line with their level of training and skills.
Duncan said they would not be suitable for deployment to most clinical areas. He added: “We will look very carefully at where nursing associates can be best used to add value. That will be based upon patient need and whether the roles fully fit the skills that nurse associates bring.”
The new role is one of a number of initiatives the trust is running to improve staff retention and career opportunities and to reduce vacancy rates on wards and reliance on agency staffing.