• NMC standards for nursing associates will allow them to be counted as part of ward staffing
  • Royal College of Nursing said it was concerned at the proposals
  • Trusts who choose to count NAs in staffing levels will need to show how they will protect training time

Trainee nursing associates will be able to be counted as part of ward staffing levels prompting concerns about the standard of education and safety.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has given employers the option of not awarding nursing associate trainees ‘supernumerary’ status, according to its final standards published today.

The standards give employers two options: the supernumerary model where students are additional to the minimum number of staff required for safety and the new option where nursing associate students are included in workforce numbers.

Student nurses are supernumerary to protect their training and education.

However, the NMC has said for employers choosing the second option employers must show the regulator how they will protect a certain amount of time for the trainees to learn.

Under both options, students would be supervised and must receive the same amount of protected learning time, the NMC said.

The NMC’s consultation found that 66 per cent of respondents agreed that supernumerary should be a requirement for preregistration nursing associate programmes but 62 per cent said that the NMC should permit a different approach to protecting learning in practice settings.

The nursing regulator added that nursing associates undertaking practice placements outside their normal place of would be counted as supernumerary.

Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We have significant concerns around the NMC’s decision not to treat trainee nursing associates as supernumerary. The alternative protected learning time is ill defined and without an overarching quality assurance framework, it is hard to see how nursing staff, educators and the public can be confident in this approach.”

“There is a strong rationale that supernumerary status allows nursing staff to learn effectively and safely,” Ms Kinnair said. “Any move away from this approach must be supported by robust evidence and planning.”

Geraldine Walters CBE, director of education and standards at the NMC, said: “Our standards will ensure that they have the skills and knowledge they need to deliver the highest quality, patient centred care throughout their careers.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “Many employers are enthusiastic about this new role and we believe the decisions announced today by the NMC will support the service to further scale up the development and deployment of nursing associates.”

The new standards set out the skills and knowledge nursing associates will need to know before they qualify. Some of the skills listed include:

  • Continually assess people receiving care and their ongoing ability to self administer their own medications. Know when and how to escalate any concerns;
  • Undertake accurate drug calculations for a range of medications;
  • Exercise professional accountability in ensuring the safe administration of medicines to those receiving care;
  • Administer medication via oral, topical and inhalation routes;
  • Trainees will also be expected to improve the safety and quality of care of patients, which include:
    • Accurately undertake risk assessments;
    • Respond to and escalate potential hazards that may affect the safety of people;
    • Recognise when inadequate staffing levels impact on the ability to provide safe care.


Updated at 11.45am to include additional detail provided from NMC that trainees will be supernumerary when on placements outside their normal place of work