RCN Wales recognises the importance of nursing associates (NA) but the radical decision to introduce NAs in Wales, without public consultation or parliamentary scrutiny, is disappointing.
The introduction of regulated NAs has the potential to increase recognition and reward for band 4 support workers along with opportunities to develop their career, but we are very concerned, given the current harsh pressures of reduced public funding in the NHS, that achieving the potential for benefits in this change will be difficult to accomplish.
Helen Whyley, RCN Wales Director, said: "Patient safety must be the top priority for the Welsh government. There is a real danger that under financial pressure, health boards will see the employment of nursing associates as a potential alternative to the employment of registered nurses (RN) creating a risk for patients.
“The evidence is undeniable: the professional knowledge, skills and judgement of the RN makes a critical difference to patient safety. Low nurse staffing levels are associated with up to 26% higher patient mortality, longer hospital stays, higher infection rates and a greater incidence of falls and pressure ulcers."
Helen added: “The Welsh government has not identified additional funding for the employment and education of this new role of NA; indeed, they claim there is no cash in the system.
“Given this is a change to government policy and was not in the 2021 Welsh Labour manifesto, the RCN will be scrutinising this new policy to ensure that funds for registered nursing education in Wales are not stripped out, nor that of the existing registered nursing workforce budget.
“The RCN will do everything to work with the Welsh government to minimise this risk to patient safety and enhance nursing care to provide the best possible outcomes to patients."
Nursing associates have been part of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register since 2018. The role was introduced to the health and social care workforce in England to provide a bridging role between health care assistants and registered nurses. The role also offers an alternative route into nursing.