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NMC to reconsider its role in regulating advanced practice

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) will explore its role in the regulation of advanced practice following a major evaluation into its post-registration standards.  

The evaluation, led by consultancy firm Blake Stevenson, called on the NMC to reconsider its role with participants raising concerns that unregulated areas of advanced practice put the public at greater risk.  

The NMC has now announced that it will review its role in regulation of post-registration standards, including of advanced practice.

In a report attached to the findings, the organisation admitted there was ‘little regulatory oversight’ around existing advanced practice career and employment frameworks 

The lack of regulation has resulted in a 'patchwork' of advanced practice education across the UK with each country establishing their own standards and frameworks, participants reported. 

The review concluded: 'There is the opportunity to draw this together and rationalise under the leadership of the regulator.'

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

Dr Melanie Rogers, International Council of Nurses (ICN)/Advanced Practice Nurse Network chair, welcomed the commitment from the NMC.   

She told Nursing in Practice: 'In terms of patient protection, patients should know exactly who they're seeing and know the level of qualification that these practitioners have. 

'Currently, because the title is not protected, you can go out and do - for example - a minor injuries course and call yourself a nurse practitioner. Ethically, there is a major issue.’ 

She continued: 'The advanced nurse practitioner role is a very defined and specific role and, because of the level of autonomy and accountability, I think it is something that we should be regulating. 

‘There are so many variations in terms of the advanced practice training and we need to make sure that it's standardised across the UK.'  

On the possibility of introducing a protected title for advanced practice, Dr Rogers said: 'From an international perspective, it would bring it in line to what pretty much every other country globally has done.  

'Our recommendation for the ICN nurse practitioner network is that countries looking to develop these roles set up the appropriate regulation.’  

The lack of regulation has been a concern for 'many, many years', added Dr Rogers. 

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

Post-registration standards for the specialist community public health nurse (SCPHN) part of the register and those with specialist practice qualifications (SPQs) will also be addressed during these roundtable events. 

Standards for SCPHNs such as school nurses and nurses with SPQs such as practice nurses have not been updated since 2004 and 2001 respectively.

They must be more 'contemporary and relevant', concluded the evaluation.

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.’