NMC to launch review into practice learning requirements

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) will commission a review into nursing and midwifery students’ practice learning requirements across the UK, it has been announced.

The regulator said today that the piece of independent research would help inform whether any changes need to be made to its current clinical placement requirements such as the hours students need to complete.

“We have a responsibility to make sure [students are] equipped with the knowledge and skills needed”

Sam Foster

The announcement follows changes that were made to the NMC’s pre-registration programme standards in January 2023.

These included doubling the number of hours nursing students can have for simulated practice learning and greater flexibility around entry requirements to get onto a nursing and midwifery programme.

The NMC said at the time that it wanted to undertake further work around nursing programme standards, including a review into practice learning requirements.

It comes as practice learning accounts for 50% of nursing and midwifery programmes.

Currently, nurses undertake 2,300 practice learning hours, of which 600 can be covered by simulated practice learning.

In recent years, there has been some support to push forward with reducing the minimum number of practice learning hours.

In the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, the government said it wanted to explore how nurses can join the NMC register after fewer practice hours.

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It argued that a reduction in practice learning hours from 2,300 to 1,800 over the course of a nursing degree could reduce pressure on students while increasing placement capacity across NHS services.

However, the NMC has repeatedly highlighted that it would need to undertake an in-depth review into current practice learning requirements for nursing and midwifery, before deciding if any changes need to be made.

The new independent review announced today by the regulator is set to do just that.

The NMC said the research would look at what contributes to effective practice learning across the UK, as well as assessing the effectiveness and differences of practice learning in other counties.

In addition, the regulator said that it would work with stakeholders, including the public, to understand if there are any further changes to practice learning that it should explore.

The review is set to be informed by the NMC’s ongoing quality assurance activity, including the impact of last year’s changes to simulated practice learning.

The NMC also announced that it was seeking an independent chair of a new external steering group, which will guide the independent research on this work and review any proposals before they are submitted to the regulator’s governing council for consideration.

The closing date for applications to this role is 30 January 2024.

Sam Foster, NMC executive director for professional practice, said: “Today’s students are tomorrow’s professionals at the heart of health and social care.

Sam Foster

“We have a responsibility to make sure they’re equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to improve people’s health and wellbeing, and practice learning is key to this.”

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Ms Foster noted that demand for care was rising and that “people’s care needs are constantly evolving”.

She added: “The independent research we’re undertaking will ensure that, together with education institutions and practice learning partners, we’re continuing to support and prepare students to be the best nursing and midwifery professionals they can be when they qualify – delivering high-quality, person-centred care across different sectors and settings.”

Ms Foster noted that input from the NMC’s partners would be “invaluable” to the work going forward and that the regulator looked forward to gathering views over the coming months.

She said the NMC would keep everyone updated as the work progresses.

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