North London Partners in health and care

From health care assistant to NMC registered nursing associate

The North London Partners trainee Nursing Associate pilot programme, which started in Jan 2017, saw its first Nursing Midwifery Council (NMC)  registered nursing associates qualify in February 2019. 

The partnership of ten employers included two trainees from general practices, Karolina Weiligda (Lawrence House Surgery) and Julie Rosewood (Bridge House Medical Practice) trained alongside colleagues from Whittington Health NHS Trust, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Mental Health Trust, Central London Community Healthcare Trust,  Marie Curie, North Middlesex University Hospital and Bridgeside Lodge Care Centre. 

The partnership model meant that they had opportunities to work in each others’ workplaces on placements, learning about the whole health and social care system. 

The wider programme is tackling a number of workforce issues including the:

  • lack general practice nurses
  • removal of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) funding offer from Health Education England in north central London and north east London  for the past 3 years
  • increase in health care assistants with varying skills and competencies
  • varied understanding of training and development requirements of the primary care nursing team 

Workforce programme lead Katherine Gerrans worked with practices and Community Education Provider Networks (CEPN) to develop the apprenticeship model. Potential candidates were identified as were possible barriers to higher education, such as a lack of ‘functional skills’, including maths and English, at an appropriate level for higher education. The project group identified local courses already available and commissioned specialist training to enhance other study skills such as essay writing. 

For Katherine it was important that the nursing associates are registered and professionally accountable. They are trained to understand the ‘why’ of what they do and to deliver evidence-based care. 

The new nursing associate role will be able to work across a variety of settings thanks to the comprehensive training which has given them experience of working in 'hospital', ‘home’ and ‘near to home care'. 

Throughout the two year training programme the team worked with practices and care homes to ensure the new learners were supported. 

Lessons learnt are now being pulled together to further improve the programme.  For example practices that took part were keen to develop their staff but also lamented the loss of their health care assistants and found that supporting a trainee was time-consuming. 

However, the end result was rewarding, developing new skills in the team, retaining team members who may be able to undertake additional duties, such as taking smear tests and immunising.  Feedback from patients has been good, as has comments from other members of practices’ teams who value the additional expertise and help. 

The next wave of trainees started, in December 2018, and include five trainees from general practices, five for social care and one from hospice care (Marie Curie). 

The programme is now looking at scaling up the approach. This includes looking at the role that GP federations could play in helping develop a standardised approach, exploring how to develop teams of practice educators and mentors and how to recruit candidates at scale.

 For more information contact Katherine Gerrans