Controversial specialist register will be reviewed, says NMC

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has said it will review its controversial specialist community public health nursing register, also known as the third part of the register. The register has been a bone of contention for many OH nurses since it was established in 2004, with nurses first complaining about the process of migration to the register.

Many OH practitioners have also voiced concern that being grouped into a general listing alongside health visitors, school nurses, sexual health advisers, health protection nurses and (in Scotland) family nurses, has risked diluting occupational health as a specialty as well as leading to a potential “dumbing down” of OH training.

The NMC said its review would look at the make-up of the third part of the register and the standards and proficiencies that public health nurses would need to demonstrate to meet the increasingly complex health demands of communities.

“The review will be undertaken in light of the widespread reorganisation of health services in England, and the developing demands on public health nurses across the UK. This includes enabling the significant role that health visitors will be expected to play in supporting vulnerable families and promoting the health of infants,” it added.

NMC chief executive and registrar Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes stressed the review was at “an early stage” and a full timetable would be announced in the next few months. “However, we are committed to thinking radically about how the regulation of this important area of practice should work in the future,” he said.

The exact scope or remit of the review remains unclear, and it is not known whether scrapping it altogether will even be up for debate.

In a separate development, in September the NMC unveiled education standards that future nursing students will need to meet to gain entry to the NMC register.

The new standards for pre-registration nursing education were, it said, “the biggest overhaul in nursing education programmes since Project 2000”, its mid-1990s reform of nurse training.

The new standards are available to view on the NMC’s website.

New programmes incorporating them will start from September next year, with the intention being that by 2013 all pre-registration nursing education programmes will reflect the new standards, the NMC has said.

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