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2017: Another busy year for nurses

As 2017 gets under way, the NMC is concentrating on the key challenges facing the nursing profession this year, including Brexit and regulating nursing associates.

As 2017 gets under way, the NMC is concentrating on the key challenges facing the nursing profession this year, including Brexit and regulating nursing associates

This is set to be another busy year for those of us involved in nursing and midwifery, with new opportunities and challenges that will certainly make it a year to remember.

I am proud of the work carried out by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) throughout 2016. We received our best ever Professional Standards Authority (PSA) review, meeting all but one of their standards for good regulation. We also introduced revalidation, which has proved a real success, with over 100,000 nurses and midwives successfully revalidating in 2016 and many more due to do so in 2017. 

The decision on whether the NMC will regulate nursing associates will be discussed and decided upon by our Council at its next meeting on 25 January. This comes after the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, formally asked the NMC to be the regulator for this new role. We continue to work closely with Health Education England on the development of the role.

In addition, the Department of Health (DH) confirmed in 2016 that the new nursing degree apprenticeship standard has been approved. Students undertaking the nursing degree apprenticeship will be employed in the healthcare sector and be released by their employer to study. They’ll train in a range of practice placement settings, against the NMC’s pre-registration standards, and will learn through NMC approved education providers.

Whenever I have met nurses across the four countries of the UK, Brexit has been a major talking point. EU-trained nurses are a vital part of the healthcare workforce across the UK and it’s important that they are aware that their registration status with the NMC hasn’t changed. We are still the regulator for all registered nurses and midwives working in the UK and there are no plans for this to change. The NMC will remain in close contact with the DH to understand the implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on our role as the regulator and we will keep nurses and midwives up to date on any developments.

Away from politics, the development of our strategic education programme continues to gather pace as we seek to ensure that newly qualified nurses and midwives are safe, skilled and confident when working in a health and care system that’s changing at an unprecedented rate. The standards will be sufficiently future proofed; focusing on what the public will need from a graduate registered nurse in 2030 – not just in 2017. 

This is not just a simple refresh of our education standards. We are undertaking a radical review of our standards for pre-registration nursing and midwifery. We are also developing a new education framework to support learning in theory and practice. And of course, if pre-registration programmes are changing and the way education is delivered is changing, we need to make sure the way we quality assure education is fit for purpose as well. 

As well as embarking on this programme of change for education, proposed changes to the NMC’s fitness to practise legislation are also expected to be introduced by the Government in 2017. I have maintained for a long time that our current legislation is out of date and in need of major reform because it currently takes too long and costs too much for us to conclude cases. These proposed changes will allow us to develop a more proportionate approach, with new powers to resolve some less contentious matters more simply and quickly, taking only the most serious cases to a full hearing.

While the future is never set in stone, 2017 may well prove to be a more eventful year than 2016.