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Nursing associates

The nursing associate is a new support role in England that bridges the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses to deliver hands-on, person-centred care as part of the nursing team. Nursing associates work with people of all ages in a variety of settings in health and social care.  

This webpage contains information for health and care employer organisations that are interested in learning more about the role of Nursing Associates. If you are interested in becoming a nursing associate, visit the Nursing Associates website here.

The role was introduced in response to the Shape of Caring Review (2015), to help build the capacity of the nursing workforce and the delivery of high-quality care. It will be a vital part of the wider health and care team and aims to:

  • support the career progression of healthcare assistants
  • enable nurses to focus on more complex clinical work
  • increase the supply of nurses by providing a progression route into graduate-level nursing. To find out more go to the Skills for Health website here or view the Nursing Associate to Registered Nurse FAQs in the drop down at the bottom of the page. 


Benefits for employers

Employers that have invested in the nursing associate role as part of wider workforce planning and skills mix transformation have seen a number of benefits, including:

  • improved service delivery and patient care
  • improved staff retention through career progression
  • the ability to ‘grow your own’ nursing workforce 
  • investing in a tried and tested training programme, accredited by the NMC.

“Nursing associates are working in new ways, they are more engaged not just in the patient’s care, but also in the running of the ward and in the supervision of some student nurses. What you find is that all staff on the ward start learning together and talking in a more proactive way about patient pathways and diseases, it’s been a very positive experience.” Ward manager



Why employ a nursing associate? (pdf)

Why employ a nursing associate? (PowerPoint template)

View the Traverse Primary Care Deep Dive here  

View the Traverse Social Care Deep Dive here 

View the Traverse Mental Health Deep Dive here 

View the Traverse Learning Disability Deep Dive here 

If you require these in a different format please contact: nationalnursingandmidwiferyteam@hee.nhs.uk 


The nursing associate role is regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

To become a registered nursing associate, individuals must pass a foundation degree awarded by an NMC-approved provider, typically taken over two years. The programme includes both academic and work-based learning and prepares trainees to work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings in health and social care.

To find out more about the role, or register your interest in training as a nursing associate, please visit the nursing associate website here.

Find out more about training a nursing associate here.

You may need to present a business case to your board to secure the required investment to develop this role in your organisation.

Visit the NHS Employers website for information on training and funding nursing associates.

The ambassador role offers qualified nursing associates or those in training the opportunity to contribute with HEE on a local and national level to provide healthcare workforce transformation to develop and advance the Nursing Associate profession. 

There are varied opportunities available for you as an ambassador and you can contribute where you feel most comfortable.

For more information please take a look at our briefing pack

Any queries please contact  TNAenquiries.national@hee.nhs.uk.

In January 2017, HEE launched a trainee nursing associate programme, with the first two waves of trainees based at 35 partnerships that delivered a programme of education and training in academic and work-based settings.

2017 test site partnerships

Each partnership was aligned with a Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) footprint and composed of at least one employer and one education provider (Higher Education Institution). Employers included care homes, acute, community and mental health trusts and hospices, and primary care (GPs), representing the variety of settings in which nursing associates will provide care for patients. Two thousand trainee nursing associates joined the programme within waves 1 and 2.

Nursing associate rollout 2018 onwards

Expansion of the role has continued into 2018 (wave 3) and 2019 (wave 4). In 2018 around 5,000 Trainee Nursing Associates were enrolled onto programmes. HEE is committed to a further 7,500 starting the programme by March 2020.


Health Education England (HEE) commissioned an independent evaluation of the first two years of the programme to June 2019, which was published in October 2019. Read the evaluation here.

Traverse has been commissioned by HEE to continue evaluation of the introduction of nursing associates in 2019-20. This has included a ‘deep dive’ into how organisations involved in the programme have deployed nursing associates in different sectors and the benefits and challenges associated with investing in the new role. Summary documents containing in-depth interviews with employers can be found with the other employer case studies.

- View the Nursing Associate Milestones Timeline here 

- View the Phase 1 OPM Evaluation Report here 

- View the Trainee Nursing Associate Conference 2017 Report here

- View the Trainee Nursing Associate Year 2 Evaluation Report here 

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