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Information for HCAs and APs

The RCN supports mandatory regulation of HCAs and APs

The RCN supports learning and development for HCAs & APs and provides representation wherever nursing takes place.

Nursing Associates

Nursing associates are a new support role introduced to the health care workforce.

Nursing associates will work alongside health care assistants, assistant practitioners and graduate registered nurses in training for two years, and attend universities and further education colleges part-time.

1,000 trainee nursing associates began their training in January 2017 at sites around England. A further 1,000 started training in April 2017.

Find out more about nursing associates.

The RCN responded to Health Education England’s (HEE) consultation on the nursing associate role. More than 7,500 members responded to the RCN’s survey, helping to inform its response.

Read the RCN's consultation response.

Code and standards


In England the Care Certificate was implemented from 1 April 2015. Employers are expected to help new support workers achieve the standards in the certificate within around 12 weeks of starting employment. For more information visit the Health Education England website.


NHS Education for Scotland has developed the health care support workers toolkit. This includes the Scottish government's mandatory induction standards for health care support workers, a code of conduct for support workers and a code of practice for employers in Scotland. Mandatory induction standards have been in place since 2011.

There are separate sets of codes relating to conduct and practice in the independent sector, produced by the Scottish Social Services Council. The council requires all their support workers to be on a register and they are now moving to a fitness to practise model. For more information please visit the Scottish Social Services Council website.


In Wales a code of practice for NHS Wales employers and a code of conduct for health care support workers has been available since 2011. In 2016 an NHS Wales Skills and Career Development framework has been introduced for all support workers and can be found here.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, health and social care services are integrated. The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority registers and inspects a wide range of services delivered by health and social care bodies and independent sector providers. The Northern Ireland Social Care Council regulates all social care assistants, including care assistants working in nursing homes. Visit the Northern Ireland Social Care Council website for more information.

In Northern Ireland, the RCN continues to lobby in favour of HCAs being appropriately regulated, alongside their registered nurse colleagues, by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. We oppose the regulation of HCAs by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council.

RCN work on regulation

The RCN has published various policy papers setting out its position on regulation. You can use these to find more information on the perceived benefits of regulating HCAs.

Registered Nurses and Health Care Support Workers: A summary of RCN policy positions


Accountability and delegation


RCN membership

If you provide health or social care under the guidance and supervision of a registered nurse, midwife or health visitor and are not on a professional register you could be eligible to join the RCN.

Join the RCN