National study starts of new nursing role

How can the new Nursing Associates help resolve some of the workforce recruitment and retention problems in health and social care? A new King’s College London-led study is finding out the answers to this question and it will also be seeking the views and experiences of patients and people using care services of these new staff. The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, will be the first to gather information, statistics and experiences of the new Nursing Associates in practice and from people supporting them.

Researchers are starting by collecting details of the ways in which Nursing Associates are being employed across England. In some parts of the country Nursing Associates are already in post; while others are still undertaking their training. The research team is asking why some employers are taking up this new role but not others. Over time the researchers will be keeping a keen eye on whether Nursing Associates find this job satisfying, whether some move on to undertake registered nurse training courses, and what their managers say about these new staff. The research team will also be asking patients, care users, and family carers about whether they are seeing any differences to their treatment and care as a result of the employment of Nursing Associates. Much of this information will be gathered through surveys and interviews. Other key questions are whether Nursing Associates plan to stay in their jobs and what sort of work they will be doing as they get more experienced.

More research is needed to understand how such changes in jobs and qualifications help sustain our health and care workforce and address its problems. This new study will provide strong evidence about new roles such as Nursing Associates. Very importantly this evidence will come from across health and social care, from different services, and from people taking up these new jobs, their employers and their managers. It is essential that patients and care users contribute to this evidence since the whole point of such changes is to improve care quality, health and care outcomes, and continuity.

Mrs Pida Ripley, Chair of the Unit’s Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Group, commented: “As a patient of several parts of the NHS, this study is very important as we need to know more about how and why the other patients I meet in clinics and hospital wards are affected by pressures on staff and what they think about the changes being made. Patients and care users are concerned about staff; they want them to have a good job and rewarding careers. This study will show if those staff who patients and care users often see think the Nursing Associate role makes a positive difference over time. Patients and care users need a workforce that is highly motivated, well rewarded, skilled and compassionate – we look forward to finding out if the new Nursing Associate role helps make a beneficial difference”.

The study is being conducted by researchers at King’s College London at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce. It is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).


For further details of the study see the project page and to be kept informed of its findings please contact the research leads at NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce – Professor Ian Kessler and Jo Moriarty:


Blog post on the interim findings (Sept 2020)