A new community and general practice nursing standard for post-registration programmes could be introduced by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
The regulator, which is reviewing its role in post-registration regulation after its standards were found ‘not fit for purpose’ in an major evaluation last year, currently approves specialist practitioner qualification (SPQ) courses which meet standards in nine community and non-community areas.
But new proposals could see the five community SPQ standards (in general practice, district, community mental health, community learning disabilities and community children’s nursing) replaced with one standard that would cover all fields.
Meanwhile, the four non-community SPQ standards would be axed without replacement. This would mean there would no longer be any NMC-approved post-registration courses in adult nursing, mental health nursing, children’s nursing and learning disability nursing.
The NMC told Nursing in Practice that demand for non-community SPQs is small and falling with many registrants undertaking alternative courses that the NMC does not regulate.
Many nurses who undertake specialist practice do so without holding an NMC recordable qualification.
Alongside changing SPQ standards, the regulator is reviewing its standards for the specialist community public health nursing (SCPHN) qualification.
It is considering developing ‘bespoke standards’ that distinguish between health visitors, school nurses and occupational health nurses, which are grouped together under the SCPHN part of the register.
It would also develop a set of generic SCPHN standards applicable to all three fields.
Under the proposals, the family health nursing and public health nursing titles would be dropped from the SCPHN as they were found to be ‘effectively no longer in use’.
NMC director of education and standards Dr Geraldine Walters said the current post-registration standards ‘no longer reflect’ what people using services in their home or community need.
Any new standards must ‘better reflect the work that many nurses in local communities are already doing’, she added.
Royal College of Nursing head of professional learning development Dr Nichola Ashby said: ‘We look forward to continuing to work with the NMC as they work towards updating the standards.
‘The standards will help ensure all nurses working in these areas have the professional competencies they need to ensure they can carry out the varied roles involved in modern nursing.’
All changes to post-registration standards were recommended by a steering group of external experts.
The proposed changes to post-registration standards will go to the NMC Council on 29 January.
If approved, there will be a process of public and expert engagement on the content of a new SPQ for community nurses and the changes to the three SCPHNs.
Under the plans, the NMC would give ‘formal notice’ to withdraw current SPQ and SCPHN standards by 2023.