New-look training could be on the cards for OH, as NMC outlines review of SCPHN standards

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has indicated it intends to carry out a review of post-registration training for occupational health nurses, including the possibility of new standalone OH training pathways, as part of a wholesale re-evaluation of its Specialist Community Public Health Nursing (SCPHN) standards.

The council held a second meeting of its post-registration standards steering group in January, which recommended that the NMC develops new proficiency standards for the three fields covered by SCPHN: school nurses, occupational health nurses and health visitors.

The move is likely to be welcomed by many within the OH nurse community, where there have long been questions about whether SCPHN-accredited courses, where OH nurses train alongside school nurses and health visitors, properly give OH nurses the specialist skills and proficiency they need.

It is understood the steering group now intends to create an OH expert working group comprising OH professionals from across the UK and representing all the different strands of occupational health service provision, including the NHS, independent, public and private sector, and educators.

This group will work with the steering group on the nitty-gritty of what the new SCPHN standards should look like and, importantly, the shape or content of any standalone OH standards.

The steering group also recommended that the NMC should begin to scope out what a new ‘specialist practitioner qualification’ (SPQ) for community nursing might encompass.

Former deputy chief nursing officer for England Dr David Foster, who is chairing of the steering group, said: “While we still have a long road ahead of us, I am delighted at the progress we’ve made so far. It’s important we take our time to get this right, so that nurses working in communities across the four countries can continue to provide the best and safest care for everyone.”

Dr Geraldine Walters, NMC director of education and standards, added: “We have heard a range of views about whether there is a need for regulation of post-registration. What is clear is that our current standards for SCPHN and SPQ practitioners no longer reflect what people using services in their home or in their local community need.”

As well as SCPHN standards, the steering group is looking at the future shape of Part 3 of the register, the current home in terms of registration for many occupational health nurses, and includes representatives from the Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing (FOHN) and the National School of Occupational Health. It held its first meeting in November and is next due to meet in March.

It is also expected to take on board feedback from a survey of OH nurses about SCPHN and the future of Part 3 that was carried out by FOHN and the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) during November and December.

The whole review and reform process is expected to run for a further 18 months at least.

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