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RCN issues ‘warning’ over nursing associates

18 April 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 8

In a press release issued by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Welsh office in January 2024 (RCN, 2024a), the RCN Wales Director delivered a warning over the introduction of registered nursing associates (RNAs). This suggested there was a ‘real danger’ that, as a result of financial pressures, health boards in Wales will see the employment of RNAs as a potential alternative to the employment of registered nurses (RNs), creating a risk for patients. According to the RCN this is a radical change in patient care in Wales and it was disappointed there had been no public consultation or scrutiny by the Senedd, the devolved parliament for Wales. The RCN's press release said it 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’.

The narrative here needs to be changed; RNAs are not a danger to patient safety. Low staffing levels, poor pay and an inability to recruit and retain nurses are the danger. The introduction of RNAs in England did not receive public consultation and the role is now embedded, with no evidence of any danger to patients. The protection provided to patient care by the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016 should mitigate any substitution of RNAs for RNs. The RCN's concerns regarding the role of registrants must be explained further – if not for the more than 10 000 RNAs on the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register, then for the public in general. If the RCN has concerns about RNAs it must make the NMC aware of these.

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