The Nursing and Midwifery Council says it is taking a “measured approach” to regulating advanced practice and does not see it as an urgent priority, the regulator’s chief executive and registrar has told Nursing Times.
In the meantime it is up to hospitals and community organisations to ensure staff were sufficiently skilled and received the development they needed, he said.
In an interview with Nursing Times, he said: “That’s their responsibility and most NHS organisations have pretty tight criteria about who can call themselves advanced nursing practitioners.”
“The advanced practice piece of work has never been off the agenda at the NMC, it’s just been difficult to make progress with it. There are, it has to be said, a range of views about advanced practice and whether it should be regulated.
“Despite an NMC consultation, a government white paper and a report by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, there is still no clear consensus. There is good evidence coming from America that shows regulation can increase patient safety.”
But he warned: “However, we don’t want to over-regulate and hinder innovation, so this is why we’re opening the debate.”
No decision would be made in the near future as there were questions over how a framework could be developed to cover all four UK countries, the military, the independent sector and island territories.
Mr Weir-Hughes said: “It has to be done properly, which almost by definition means not hastily. I’d much rather do something properly that takes a little while then do something hastily and for it to be wrong.”
His priority is establishing a system for regulating healthcare support workers.
He said: “The reason, for me, the advanced nursing piece isn’t such an urgent priority as the role of the healthcare support worker is we already have regulation in place for nursing, it’s just not specific to advanced practice nursing.
“The question is whether or not there needs to be some additional regulation, but with healthcare support workers there’s nothing.”
As revealed in Nursing Times last week, Mr Dickon Weir-Hughes has said he is “single minded” about establishing a national system for healthcare support workers.