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Over the last five years at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, we’ve renewed nearly all of our proficiency and education standards.
We started with pre-registration standards, which we felt made sense because they’re what you must study first to join the register as a professional. This work has helped to set the foundation for the work we’re now doing on our post-registration standards.
However, our post-registration standards are the oldest standards of all and so the most in need of updating. Most of them relate to community nursing, which has developed massively since these old standards were written.
Modern community nursing practice and education have long overtaken them and there are new ambitions for the type of care that can be provided in the community, and how it should be delivered.
Collaboration has been key in the production of all our new standards and our work on community nursing is no different.
Everyone has agreed on the value and importance of community nursing, and the need for great post-registration education so that people can access highly skilled, expert care at their doorstep.
But there have been passionate differences of opinion about the way this could be achieved. And that’s no surprise, because people care deeply about it, and the role, if any, of regulation.
To try and align some of these differences of opinion, we proposed to replace the five recordable community specialist practice qualifications (SPQs) with a single recordable community qualification.
This would have encompassed all of the roles within the community, though nurses would still have been able to study for a qualification and practice within a particular field or speciality. I want to be clear that these proposed changes would not have removed the role or the title from a regulatory point of view – only the way the qualifications were recorded on the register.
But we know many, and district nurses in particular, were upset about this, and it was clear from feedback from some of our stakeholder organisations that the unintended consequences of changing the way the qualification is recorded on our register could lead to the role or the title being jeopardised.
Our four chief nursing officers shared these concerns, and helpfully came to a consensus across the four countries of the UK.
Their position has helped us to develop a new proposal, which has now been presented to our post-registration standards steering group.
“We’ll continue to co-produce the content of our draft standards, which will be ready for our council’s consideration and a full public consultation at the beginning of next year”
The new proposal is that we will continue to record our existing five community SPQs, in addition to one more qualification in specialist community nursing that doesn’t specify a field of practice, which we hope will provide a relevant qualification for other community nursing roles in health and social care.
We hope this updated proposal will set a strong foundation and the standards content will act as a stepping stone to our future commitment to exploring whether the regulation of advanced practice is needed.
We’ll continue to co-produce the content of our draft standards, which will be ready for our council’s consideration and a full public consultation at the beginning of next year.
So far, there has been lots of agreement on the actual content of the standards, which is great, but we want as many people as possible – nurses, employers, educators, students, advocacy groups and people who use services – to tell us what they think.
We know that life is really busy at the moment, and we also don’t know when things will get better. So we will be running a longer consultation of four months until next spring, to give people more time to contribute.
We want the standards to be the best they can possibly be, and we need everyone’s help to do that. Thanks to everyone who’s contributed so far, but we want to hear from more of you. If you want to get involved, you can find out more here.
Geraldine Walters is executive director of professional practice for the Nursing and Midwifery Council