The plans were launched last week at the chief nursing officer’s conference in London, in a consultation document as part of on the Modernising Nursing Careers programme.
They will mirror the path a patient will take through the NHS, and will work in tandem with junior health minister Lord Darzi’s NHS review and the NMC’s consultation on pre-registration training.
The proposals call for nursing careers to be split into five pathways – training for children; public and family health; first contact and urgent care; long-term health; acute and critical care; and mental health.
All nurses will major in one pathway, but will be required to study elements of another.
Additionally, advanced nursing roles will be defined and standardised under the proposed changes.
Launching the consultation, Chris Beasley, CNO for England, said: ‘The important thing to remember about this is it is not about tidying up what we have done. It is about the future asking what we need.’
Health secretary Alan Johnson added: ‘Everyone should have clear sight on where their career is heading. By linking these career paths with the patient pathways, which are emerging in the Darzi Review, we can ensure that professional development is linked with the transformation of the service.’
According to the plans, the current skills escalator system will recognise competencies and help nurses move between pathways if necessary.
They will build on core competencies learnt at pre-registration level in the first years of their career.
Unions welcomed the plans. ‘It’s a good consultative document,’ said Gail Adams, Unison’s head of nursing. ‘I like the emphasis on the balance between secondary and primary care and I like the interface with different professions.’
The consultation ends on 15 February 2008.
A parallel consultation on pre-registration nurse training was also launched last week by the NMC.