Leaked NHS document reveals government plan to rely on nursing associates

A NHS document leaked to the Health Service Journal and The Independent reveals government plans to use cheaper and unqualified staff to fill vacancies.

The report, dated October this year, was part of internal calculations on how to fill the current 44,000 vacancies for registered nurses in England.

The document discloses the government plan to grow the number of nurses by recruiting 10,000 cheaper and less qualified staff.

Nursing experts said that replacing nurses with less qualified staff will increase the risks to patients.

The report says there will be 45,000 more full-time equivalent staff in which 10,200 nursing associates (NAs) are included. The NAs were introduced to the NHS just this year and are less well trained than registered nurses , as they have only completed a two-year course.

The NHS document says: “The introduction of the NA role is designed in part to free up time for  registered nurses (RNs) and enable them to undertake more advanced roles… Expansion in numbers of NAs can therefore help to reduce growth in demand for RNs… Our skill mix assumption is that each NA in the workforce will reduce nursing workforce demand by 0.5 [full-time equivalent].” This means nursing associates could reduce half of the workload a full-time nurse has.

Boris Johnson promised 50,000 more nurses by 2024 and a 18,500 of them he hopes to retain, but according to the document seen by the HSJ and The Independent, the health service will still need more than 20,000 nurses in five years.

Although the document reveals that overseas staff will be recruited by 4 per cent a year for the next five years, the NHS will still have a nursing vacancy rate of 8 per cent by 2024.

Full article from The Guardian, 3 December 2019