Nursing Associate

Becoming a Nursing Associate through an Apprenticeship

Information for staff interested in completing the NA apprenticeship and practices and PCNs looking to support an NA apprentice.

What is a Nursing Associate (NA)?

The NA role was introduced in January 2017 through the Health Education England (HEE) trainee nursing associates programme. It aims to:

  • support the career progression of care assistants
  • enable nurses to undertake more advanced roles
  • increase the supply of nurses by providing a progression route into graduate level nursing

The NA is a bridging role between healthcare support workers and graduate registered nurses. NAs are new members of the care team, who are trained to foundation degree level.  They work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings in health and social care.

How do I become a Nursing Associate?

At the moment, most NA courses are being delivered through an apprenticeship. In BLMK, the universities are:

  • University of Bedfordshire
  • University of Northamptonship
  • Open University
  • BPP

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship offers the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’ which means that you earn a salary and part of your time is spent studying at the university and the rest of your time is spent learning either on a placement or through working in your current role.

Who can apply to become an NA apprentice?

This course is open to anyone who already holds GCSEs grade 9 to 4 (A to C) in maths and English, or Functional Skills Level 2 in maths and English. You must also hold a previous qualification at NVQ Level 3 or equivalent. If you do not hold these qualifications, you are welcome to contact us and we will advise you around how you can work towards obtaining them.

This course would be appropriate for someone who is already employed at a practice or PCN in BLMK as a healthcare assistant or in a similar role. If you are not employed by a practice in BLMK, you can search for Student NA roles through job search sites such as NHS jobs, Primary Care Careers, and Indeed.

How supporting an NA apprentice benefits practices and PCNs:

An independent evaluation of the first two waves of the nursing associates programme revealed a number of benefits to employers arising from the introduction of the role, including:

  1. improved service delivery and patient care
  2. improved staff retention through career progression
  3. the ability to ‘grow your own’ nursing workforce
  4. investing in a tried and tested training programme, accredited by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

About the Course:

The NA Apprenticeship is a two-year course taught at Level 5 and is a mixture of face-to-face learning at the University, a placement day in an alternative placement and ‘on the job learning’.

The applicant and practice/PCN pre-requisites are:

Applicant pre-requisites for entry onto the course: Practice/PCN pre-requisites to support an NA apprentice:
You must hold a grade C or above (or grade 5-9) in English and Maths (if you do not hold this level then please let the BLMK Training Hub know as soon as possible and we will be able to book you onto a funded course in order to obtain these certificates) The practice/PCN must be committed to supporting their applicant throughout their 2 years of study
You must hold a previous qualification at NVQ Level 3 or equivalent (it doesn’t have to be in health care, but it proves an ability to study at that level). If you do not hold this qualification, you will be asked to complete an assessment prior to your application being considered. If you are able to, we would ask that you offer up a placement at your practice for other NA apprentices on the course (reciprocal placements)
You must be committed to work 30-37.5 hours a week The practice must have an educational audit in place and must have someone who is able to supervise the NA apprentice


Course Funding:

The apprenticeship is funded through the government co-investment funding route. Through this route, the government pays 95% of the course fees (which is guaranteed), leaving just 5% for the PCN/practice to fund which is only around £36/month.

Salary Funding:

It is the practice’s/PCN’s responsibility to pay the NA apprentice’s salary while they are completing the apprenticeship. Student Nursing Associates (SNAs) should be recruited at an AfC Band 3 level and should be offered a Band 4 role on completion of the course. If the NA apprentice is being employed by a PCN then the PCN may use ARRS funding to pay the Trainee NA’s salary.

Funding Available to Practices/PCNs:

Practices/PCNs will be able to claim £4,000 per NA apprentice per year that they are completing their apprenticeship (£8,000 over two years). This amounts to £333 per month.

This payment goes directly to the practice and should be used to support the NA apprentice.

It is up to the practice to determine how they spend this funding (£333/month) however, it should be used to support the mentoring and supervision of the TNA.

The practice can chose to invoice HEE for this funding either at a rate of £333.34/month or £1,000/quarter.

Next Steps:

Practices are asked to fill out the following survey to lodge an expression of interest to support a current HCA to complete the NA apprenticeship:

If you have any queries, please contact Helen Worthington-Smith (Workforce Transformation Project Manager) at: