Plans to create 2,000 "nursing associate" roles across England have been announced by health officials.

The first 1,000 nursing associates, who will deliver "hands-on" care for patients, are due to start training at 11 tests sites from December, Health Education England (HEE) said.

Following "huge interest" in the role from hospitals and other parts of the health sector, a second wave of training places will follow, HEE said.

Union Unison has previously said the new roles should not be used "as a cheap way to replace registered nurses".

But HEE said the role will bridge the gap between health and care support workers and qualified nurses.

It will also offer opportunities for health care assistants to progress into nursing roles, HEE said.

Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of HEE, said: "I passionately believe that this new role will help build the capacity and capability of the health and social care workforce and allow high quality care to be delivered to a diverse and ageing population.

"Over the last few months we've seen widespread support for such a role - we will now move swiftly to make this role a reality and a success."

Professor Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, said: "It is important that we build a workforce to meet the changing needs of the people we care for. The new nursing associate role will be a part of a team built around those needs and will provide an exciting opportunity for those who want to progress their careers in the field of health and care.

"The new role also has clear benefits for registered nurses, providing additional support and releasing time to provide the assessment and care they are trained to do, as well as undertake more advanced tasks. This will ensure we use the right skills in the right place and at the right time."