The assistant practitioner role

A policy discussion paper

08 May 2009
This document considers some of the key policy issues regarding the emergence of the role of the assistant practitioner in health care. They are: the remit and purpose of the role; reasons for the introduction of this role; the role in the wider health care workforce context including workforce numbers, nursing workload and the deployment of registered nurses. The nursing profession must hold a robust debate on all the above because the assistant practitioner role must be linked to a vision for both the future configuration of the nursing workforce, and the future function and contribution of nursing to health care within that.

The RCN current position on the contribution of assistant practitioners to nursing is not one of opposition, and the RCN recognises the value of this role for patients and the nursing team. However we would become concerned if the assistant practitioner role were to be introduced as a means of reducing the costs of the registered nursing workforce (rather than to enhance patient care and the patient experience, and/or improve the career development of the support workforce). The key issues for debate concern:

  • Current and future demands for health care and how to meet these appropriately and effectively
  • Policy decisions about the size of the health care workforce, including how health care is delivered and by whom, coupled with the possibility of a decrease in numbers of registered nurses.

These must be debated by the nursing profession as a matter of urgency in order to influence the direction of travel. RCN Congress 2009 provides one opportunity for this to take place.

If you have any comments or wish to contribute further, please email

Page last updated - 17/08/2015