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Examining the introduction of the Nursing Associate role in health and social care

About this study

In 2015 the government announced the creation of a new nursing associate role designed to help bridge the gap between health and care assistants and registered nurses. It is a stand-alone role that is designed to provide a progression route into graduate level nursing. Nursing associates work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings in health and social care. It is hoped that nursing associates will free up registered nurses to focus on more complex clinical care and help with some of the workforce recruitment and retention problems in health and social care.

We are examining the introduction of the nursing associate role and the extent to which it has achieved the policy aims of providing a new route into nursing and of reducing the skills gap between health and care assistants and registered nurses.

The study was introduced on the Unit blog: 25 June 2019.


This research is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme, through the Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, PR-PRU-1217-21002. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.


This multi-method study is collecting data from nursing associates, directors of nursing and care, senior nurses and care workers, workforce planners, nursing and social care educators and researchers, regulators, policymakers, other stakeholders, patients, service users and carers. The project began with interviews with key informants and experts on the early impact of nursing associates. This was accompanied by an analysis of key policy documents and a literature review. Directors of nursing have been surveyed about their views and experiences, with a second survey to follow and other data collection from social care stakeholders. A series of in-depth case studies were planned across a range of different health and social care organisations spread across England and two were completed prior to the halting of fieldwork due to Covid-19. A second series of interviews is now underway with key informants and experts to investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic and its legacy are likely to impact on the NA programme – or if it has already done so.


See under the Outputs tab below for our reporting from this study.

Project status: Completed

Principal Investigator