Posted: Thu 4th Jan 2024

Welsh Government explores introduction of new nursing role triggering union concerns

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jan 4th, 2024

The Welsh Government is currently exploring the introduction of a regulated band 4 nursing role within NHS Wales.

The role is aimed at bridging the gap between healthcare support worker and registered nurse.

However, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has expressed significant concerns regarding the move.

RCN Wales Director, Helen Whyley, criticised the lack of public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny in what she described as “a radical change in patient care in Wales.”

The RCN is particularly worried about the potential employment of nursing associates (NAs) as a cost-effective alternative to registered nurses, which could compromise patient safety.

The RCN emphasises the critical role that registered nurses play in ensuring patient safety.

Studies have shown that lower nurse staffing levels are linked to higher patient mortality rates and other health complications.

Ms Whyley appreciated the protection offered by the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 but urged the Welsh Government to strengthen this safeguard, especially where NAs are to be employed.

While the introduction of NAs could provide career development opportunities and recognition for band 4 support workers, the RCN is concerned about realising these benefits under the current financial pressures facing the NHS.

There is no additional funding earmarked for the employment and education of these new roles, and the RCN is keen on ensuring that this policy does not negatively impact the funding for registered nursing education or the existing nursing workforce budget.

The RCN has pledged to work closely with the Welsh Government to minimise risks to patient safety and enhance nursing care.

“The RCN will do everything to work with the Welsh Government to minimise this risk to patient safety and enhance nursing care to provide the best possible outcomes to patients,” stated Ms Whyley.

In a statement to the Nursing Times, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are considering the introduction of a regulated band 4 nursing role for NHS Wales subject to the necessary UK legislative amendments and we will be publishing a statement shortly with more details.

“As part of this work we have undertaken a comprehensive review of literature, evidence gathering and extensive stakeholder engagement. This found there remains significant utilisation of the band 4 role and an inconsistent approach to its implementation across NHS Wales.”

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