Assistant practitioners

Nurse and scanner

09 / 4 / 2015 Midnight

Developing the role of the assistant practitioner can help employers ensure they have the right flexible mix of skills to meet complex patient needs, freeing up registered practitioners to deliver what they have been uniquely trained for. 

What is an assistant practitioner?

An assistant practitioner is a non-occupational specific role that has been developed to assist organisations to deliver high quality and patient centred services in a variety of settings.

How can you use assistant practitioners to meet patient needs?

The role can support employers in areas of skill shortages or where there are recruitment difficulties and can provide a career pathway for more junior members of staff or as a route to registered professional roles. The Skills for Health Core standards for assistant practitioners defines the role as follows:

 “An assistant practitioner is a worker who competently delivers health and social care to and for people. They have a required level of knowledge and skill beyond that of the traditional healthcare assistant or support worker. The assistant practitioner would be able to deliver elements of health and social care and undertake clinical work in domains that have previously only been within the remit of registered professionals. The assistant practitioner may transcend professional boundaries. They are accountable to themselves, their employer, and, more importantly, the people they serve.”

When developing an assistant practitioner role, it is important to ensure focus remains on why the role is required, the role relationship with others in the immediate and multi-disciplinary team and what the intended outcomes are. There should be clarity around duties and responsibilities of the role, impact on the wider team and consideration should also be given to governance policies, procedures and guidelines.

The resources below will help employers when developing an assistant practitioner role within their organisation.


Skills for Health has published Core standards for assistant practitioners. They were developed to standardise the role and promote consistency and transferability. They comprise six high level standards and can be used as a basis for constructing and defining an assistant practitioner role.

Some trusts use these standards, as well as the recently released (2013) Skills for Health Code of Conduct and National Minimum Training Standards for healthcare support workers, to build robust and effective job descriptions, inductions and development plans for their assistant practitioners.

NHS Careers provides helpful details about the kind of roles Assistant Practitioners can undertake in NHS settings.

In 2013, Skills for Health also published a Higher Level Apprenticeship Framework for the assistant practitioner role.  This work-based programme was designed and developed with employers to contribute to better productivity, retention and a qualified workforce who are supported in the application of their learning directly into the workplace.  Employers have endorsed the apprenticeship programme as it provides broad based training in core competence and knowledge which is transferable between employers and clinical settings through the completion of qualifications based on National Occupational Standards. The framework has both a Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) route and Foundation Degree route to achieving occupational competence. Employers and Apprentices can choose the qualification that best suits their needs.

Assistant practitioners in practice

We have produced several case studies telling the stories of organisations that have successfully developed assistant practitioner roles:

  • 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has supported the development of assistant practitioners in its universal child services.
  • Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust created a local framework to develop the role of assistant practitioner. The framework addressed cultural change, educational requirements and governance arrangements for the new roles. Working with the University of Bradford they formed two new qualifications alongside accredited work based learning.
  • North Bristol NHS Trust developed workforce plans to support the role of assistant practitioners and improve the patient experience as part of the QIPP agenda.
  • Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust introduced assistant practitioners in part to support the career pathway of staff. Find out how they implemented the role, including sample job descriptions.
  • South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has created a career and development framework for support staff, including the introduction of an inpatient assistant practitioner role.


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