The NMC could consider the viability of protecting the advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) title as part of its consultation into the regulation of the role, NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe has said.
Speaking at the QNI conference on Thursday evening, Ms Sutcliffe said the promised consultation on the regulation of advanced nurse practice, first announced in 2019, may consider the ‘interesting question’ of protecting the ANP title and ‘whether that is viable or not’.
Highlighting a lack of consistency in the ANP role in terms of pay, training and titles, Ms Sutcliffe said she hoped regulating it would provide both ‘consistency’ and better career progression for professionals, as well as ‘assurance’ and better protection ‘for the public’.
She said consultation work will begin by asking an independent organisation to undertake a evidence and stakeholder review, with findings presented to the NMC council ‘at some point next year’. Ms Sutcliffe added that she was ‘pretty clear’ that the council would approve the body of work.
Ms Sutcliffe said the upcoming consultation will also consider whether:
- To involve regulators of other professions in the work
- To ‘look at some of the existing standards that we’ve got rather than completely reinventing the wheel’
- The approach towards ‘people who have already taken some form of advanced practice and training’ and how to align that in any specific standards
She added: ‘We need to make sure we’re doing this properly. We need to make sure we’re doing this in a way that means something for everybody involved.’
Ms Sutcliffe also underlined that the four chief nursing officers for each UK country had told the NMC that they ‘absolutely wanted’ it to ‘look at advanced practice’.
However, speaking to delegates at the QNI conference, Ms Sutcliffe said the review of advance practice regulation had been delayed by Covid.
In 2009, as Ms Sutcliffe told the conference, a ‘very cold bucket of water was thrown over the idea’ of regulating advanced practice titles.
She was referring to a report published by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (now the Professional Standards Authority), which concluded that the ANP title did not require additional statutory regulation on the grounds that any risks to patient safety were ‘adequately covered’ by existing standards.
However, Ms Sutcliffe continued: ‘The roles that people can play and the contribution they can make are a world away from where we were in 2009 and what I think that can see with that explosion around all of that is that there’s not a great deal of consistency.
‘There’s not necessarily consistency in the education people have had, the training they have had, what titles they have, the roles they undertake and how much they get paid.
‘There’s a whole host of different things where you might be called and an advanced nurse practitioner in one part of the country and that will mean something very different in another part of the country.’
It comes after the NMC published its new registration standards, which the NMC has argued will act as a ‘bridge’ to its work on advanced practice.