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NMC post-registration standards ‘not fit for purpose’

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) will review post-registration standards, such as the specialist community public health nurse (SCPHN) standards, after a major evaluation found them ‘not fit for purpose’. 

The evaluation, led by consultancy firm Blake Stevenson, highlighted a limited understanding and lack of clarity around the standards, parts of which have not been updated in over a decade. 

As a result, the NMC has announced that it is reconsidering the role it plays in regulation beyond initial registration of nurses, midwives and nursing associates. It also admitted that there was a 'degree of confusion and complexity' around how its register is structured and annotated.

The report explored post-registration standards for nurses who want to join the SCPHN part of the register, such as school nurses, and those with specialist practice qualifications (SPQs) such as practice nurses.  

The SCPHN standards, which have not been updated since 2004, and the standards for SPQ programme, which were last published in 2001, must be more 'contemproary and relevant', the evaluation concluded. 

The report found a 'patchwork' of different specialist education across the UK, in part due to universities making up for deficiencies in NMC standards by incorporating competencies produced by other bodies such as the Queen’s Nursing Institute.

Participants in the evaluation questioned the accessibility, purpose and user-friendliness of the standards, noting that employers had very little awareness of them.

They were also concerned about the broad content of the standards, which allows them to be applied flexibly but also means they lack the detail required for different specialisms.

On whether the standards provided protection to the public, respondents gave 'mixed views'. 

However, participants who had completed a SCPHN or SPQ programme described them as 'transformational'.

The report said: 'They felt the qualifications were prestigious, had more gravitas, were more legitimate and appropriately recognised their higher level of skills and knowledge.'

Many respondents were concerned that there would be a fragmentation and loss of quality of post-registration education if the NMC withdrew its regulatory role relating to SPQs and SCPHNs. 

In addition to 38 survey responses from approved education institutions, the 291 individuals surveyed as part of the evaluation included employers, registrants, students, stakeholders and service users from across the UK.

The NMC will share the evaluation findings with external stakeholders and work with them to develop future actions with the intention to report back to Council by the end of 2019. 

It will also consider its role in regulating advanced practice following repeated calls from participants for the regulatory body to become more involved.

Anne Trotter, assistant director of education and standards at the NMC, said: ‘Our review of post registration standards is part of our wider education change programme, which also includes our work on the Future Nurse Standards and Future Midwife Standards.  

‘As part of this, it is right that we consider our role in regulating advanced practice as we have heard some people are keen there is additional regulation for advanced practice, while others don’t think that’s necessary or appropriate.  

‘We will continue to explore what it is people think professional regulation should be doing. We will also consider this as we develop our future Strategy for 2020 and beyond.’