The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has become the regulator in law for nursing associates, bringing the apprenticeship pathway one step closer to becoming a recognised healthcare role.
Jackie Smith, the NMC’s chief executive and registrar, called the news “a significant milestone”.
She said: “This is a significant milestone on the nursing associate journey and regulation of this new role has now become a reality. There is still much to do to before the first nursing associates join our register early next year and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure this new role is understood.”
Associates will care for people of all ages, in a range of settings including hospitals, care homes and the community. As highly educated and skilled support staff, they will bring a more diverse skills mix to nursing teams and will allow registered nurses to focus on more complex care.
The NMC maintains the register of qualified nurses and midwives and setting standards of education, training, conduct and performance.
Its council agreed to become the regulator for associates in January 2017 after a request by the then health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
In September, the council will agree the standards that associates must meet to join the register, the code for associates and the annual registration fee.
The UK government created the new healthcare role in 2015. Associates are intended to work as members of interdisciplinary teams supporting the delivery of nursing care across a range of health and care settings.
The associate role will be a profession in its own right and will provide a progression route into graduate level degree programmes.