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Challenges and opportunities associated with the introduction of assistant practitioners supporting the work of registered nurses in NHS acute hospital trusts in England

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Health Services Research & Policy
DatePublished - Apr 2011
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)50-56
Original languageEnglish


Objectives: To understand the challenges and opportunities associated with the introduction of assistant practitioner (AP) roles supporting the work of ward-based registered nurses (RNs) in National Health Service (NHS) acute hospital trusts in England.

Methods: Three case studies of NHS acute hospital trusts. This paper presents qualitative findings, drawing on documentary data sources and data generated through interviews and focus group discussions.

Results: Introduction of APs into ward-based nursing teams has been variable, and often driven by external pressures rather than perceived organizational need. This, along with little national guidance, has created some confusion about the role, but at the same time has permitted flexible role development through 'negotiated compromise' at local level. While there are various areas of potential improvement in policy and practice, APs are generally perceived to have the potential to make a valuable contribution to patient care.

Conclusions: Findings from this study will help policy-makers, organizations and practitioners understand factors that enable and/or inhibit the integration of new assistant roles within existing occupational structures to develop innovative services and enhance patient care. These factors are important when considering how care will be delivered to maximize the skills of the entire nursing workforce. Journal of Health Services Research & Policy Vol 16 Suppl 1, 2011: 50-56 (C) The Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd 2011

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