The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has made the first formal steps towards the potential introduction of independent advanced practice regulation.
Sam Foster, executive director of professional practice at the regulator, told Nursing in Practice that the NMC could ‘be a bit pacier’ in its pursuit of regulation, however she stressed that the council may still choose not to introduce it.
At an NMC council meeting on Wednesday, the council approved the creation of an advanced practice steering group which will explore the possibility of introducing regulation for advanced nurse practice.
The group is expected to present a report on the different options for regulation to the council by September this year and complete the exploration of regulation by Spring 2025.
Ms Foster said that the risk posed by a lack of regulation over advanced practice was the creation of ‘unwarranted variation’ in roles.
A recent report commissioned by the NMC found that there was significant variation in the training, roles, and scope of practice held by nurses using the title of ‘advanced practitioner’.
In the council meeting, Ms Foster presented the example of a patient who was ‘really unhappy’ after being treated by two ‘advanced practitioners’.
One of which was an advanced nurse practitioner able to prescribe and produce a holistic care plan for patients, while the other was a healthcare support worker with additional training to remove stitches.
The problem, Ms Foster later told Nursing in Practice, was that the public could not get ‘what you see on the tin’ when there was no legislatively defined role for advanced practitioners.
In response to questions about what would happen to nurses currently working as advanced practitioners, Ms Foster stressed that the majority of nurses working under the title would not be affected.
Ms Foster said that ‘the vast majority’ of advanced practitioners were already working to standards expected by the NMC and that transitionary measures would be put in place.
‘This won’t be hard-headed, heavy-handed regulation. This will be a considered piece of work that we do to build on the preferred option that we recommend,’ she added.
Anne Trotter, assistant director of professional practice, also stressed the importance of advanced nurse practitioners not being seen as replacements for GPs.
‘Its not a competition, it’s a different model for different patients,’ Ms Trotter told Nursing in Practice.
‘We would not regulate just because there aren’t enough doctors, it is more about looking at the stratification of needs and comparing the workforce you have with the workforce you would like to have.’