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Drive to ‘embed’ new advanced clinical practice standards

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University leaders are working with the body responsible for professional development in England’s health service to drive forward the implementation of advanced clinical practice (ACP) standards.

The Council of Deans of Health said the new collaboration with Health Education England would help “embed” the national ACP framework, which was unveiled last year.

The collaboration is aimed at helping universities, employers and HEE to plan for the new framework, which was published jointly in November by HEE, NHS Improvement and NHS England.

The collaboration will also discuss how best to make use of new funding made available by the separate ACP apprenticeship standard, which was recently developed by the body Skills for Health.

The ACP framework states that staff in advanced roles in England must be registered with a regulatory body and have trained at master’s level – either a postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma or full master’s degree.

All ACPs will be expected to meet the requirements laid out in the framework by 2020.

As part of the collaboration, the council and the HEE will reach out to royal colleges and others “to embed the ACP framework and make it an integral element of professional development”, the council said in a statement.

“We want to open an honest conversation about opportunities and pressures within the system”

Brian Webster-Henderson

There will be a programme of activities in the coming months for existing university providers to test their understanding of the framework and the apprenticeship standard.

In September, the two organisations will host an event for over 100 stakeholders to talk about the opportunities and challenges in implementing the new ACP requirements.

One obstacle could be that individual regions or professions already have their own guidance that they follow, said Fleur Nielsen, head of policy at the council.

“So as soon as you move to more [national] consistency, that is an implementation challenge,” she said. “Another challenge is how to use the apprenticeship money.”

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing has its own voluntary accreditation scheme for advanced nurses, which differs from the ACP national framework.

How to work through any clashes between the RCN and official framework could be the subject of discussion at the programme of activities, Ms Nielsen said.

But the main focus would be implementation, she said. “A lot of this is about operationalising it rather than looking at what should be in the framework. It’s about how can we make it happen.”

The drive towards improving ACP follows concern over a lack of clear standards for nurses and others working at advanced levels.

In 2017 a study by Professor Alison Leary at London South Bank University revealed that hundreds of unregistered care staff were working in NHS roles that held advanced or specialist nursing titles.

Professor Brian Webster-Henderson, chair of the Council of Deans, said: “We want to open an honest conversation about opportunities and pressures within the system to help shape the future of this role.

“While the focus of this project is advanced practice in England, as a UK-wide organisation we will be looking at advanced practice developments across the UK over the coming year,” he said.

“Our partnership approach enables us to explore the challenges of delivering a range of ACP programmes”

John Clark

Professor John Clark, director and dean of education and quality for HEE’s South region, said: “ACPs are required to develop exceptional clinical expertise that is underpinned with post-graduate level study.

“Our partnership approach enables us to explore the challenges of delivering a range of ACP programmes that span both clinical and academic components,” he said.

In addition to the council and HEE, the organisation NHS Employers will have a position on the project’s steering committee.

The Council of Deans represents UK university departments teaching students of nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions.

HEE is responsible for workforce planning, education commissioning and education provision in England’s health service.

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