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Over 5,500 nursing associates working in the NHS with more to come under NHS Long Term Workforce Plan

29 January 2024

Picture of Emily Robinson, a nursing associate with Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Since joining to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register in 2019, 5,500 nursing associates are working in the NHS as it marks the five-year anniversary.

Nursing associates work in a variety of settings and play an essential role in delivering patient care within health and care teams.

This key clinical role is a bridge between healthcare assistants and registered nurses and enables registered nurses to lead on more complex assessment and planning of care.

The nursing associate role also provides a career pathway for healthcare support workers and is a potential progression route into graduate level nursing. Over the last five years, thousands of healthcare support workers from NHS Trusts have enrolled on training nursing associate programmes.

Emily Robinson is one of the healthcare support workers who has taken up this opportunity.

She said that she has always been interested in a career in healthcare and originally wanted to become a midwife but didn’t have the right qualifications to study this at university.

However, her desire to work in the healthcare sector wasn’t diminished and she was offered a role working as a healthcare support worker.

Emily, who works for Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “I decided I wanted to pursue my career further into nursing and successfully applied to be a Trainee Nursing Associate.

“Since I started in March 2023, I spend my time working alongside qualified nursing colleagues.

“I have worked in a variety of different placements, both in hospitals as well as out in the community such as in health visiting services.

“I combine working as a trainee nursing associate with university assignments and while it is hard work, I think it is a great approach to be learning while you are working.”

Increasing the number of routes into the nursing professions is a key part of growing the workforce to achieve the ambitions laid out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

The plan has pledged to increase the number of nursing associates to 64,000 full-time equivalents (FTE) by 2036/37.

In order to achieve this, the NHS will expand the number of training places to 10,500 by 2031/32, as part of the wider plans for expansion across the nursing professions.

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “Since its introduction, the nursing associate role has made a huge contribution as part of the multi-disciplinary team and provides essential care and support to patients and their families.

“As well as being a vital profession in its own right, the nursing associate training pathway also plays an important role in career progression – recognising talent and offering opportunities to healthcare support workers to progress if they want to as well as providing a potential onward route from nursing associate to registered nurse.”

“I welcome every opportunity to grow our professions as we continue to increase the number of nursing associates and open up the nursing profession to more people, I look forward to welcoming them to the NHS.”

Andrew Stephenson, Health Minister, said: “Nursing associates do a fantastic job supporting patients and enabling registered nurse to focus on more complex care.

“These roles will play a central part of the NHS’s Long Term Workforce Plan which will expand the number of nursing associate training places to 10,500 by 2031/32.”

Notes to editors

•       The NA role in England was introduced in response to the Shape of Caring Review to help build the capacity of the nursing team and support the delivery of high-quality care.

•       The role was formally announced by the Government in 2016 and developed by Health Education England, with the NMC becoming the legal regulator in January 2018. 

•       The first nursing associate joined the NMC register in January 2019.

•       While NAs contribute by delivering and monitoring care, RNs take the lead on assessing, managing and planning care with contribution from the NA as part of the wider integrated care team.