A £2 million programme to revise pre-registration education standards for nurses will take place in 2016-17, with students beginning revamped university courses from September 2019.
The timeline was revealed at the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s latest council meeting last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, it was suggested at the meeting that the scrapping of student bursaries and introduction of loans could lead universities to change the length of their courses, as well as the content.
The NMC said earlier this year that its standards for pre-registration nurse education needed updating to ensure they were fit for purpose.
In January, interim findings from a review – being led by former nurse Dame Jill Macleod Clark – found the standards should be made clearer and ensure students are trained with higher level skills and competencies.
At the NMC council meeting last week, it was agreed new outcome-based standards of proficiency for “nurses of the future” should be developed in the coming financial year.
Draft standards will be available by July 2017, following consultation, and students should begin the new courses from September 2019, according to NMC council papers.
”There are already discussions being had around the way funding may influence length of programmes”
The papers added that the NMC was committed to reviewing midwifery standards as well, but had decided this should be delayed due to forthcoming regulatory changes around midwifery supervision.
Concerns were raised by some council members that the timeframe for developing the new standards was too short.
Council member Karen Cox, a nurse and deputy vice chancellor at the University of Nottingham, noted the removal of bursaries for student nurses, as well as wider university reforms, could cause problems.
“I think it will be interesting, partly because there are a number of things coming down the track,” she said. “There will be changes to the quality assurance of higher education more broadly, but there’s also the funding issue.
“So there could be issues around recruitment I think, in particular, to getting new programmes approved but then also recruiting to new programmes with new funding arrangements if that all goes ahead,” she added.
“There could be issues around recruitment… to new programmes with new funding arrangements if that all goes ahead”
Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar, said the regulator had met with the Council of Deans of Health – which represents nursing and midwifery faculties across the UK – and it was “happy” with the plans.
But NMC director of continued practice Katarina Kolyva said if the consultation next year showed universities needed more time to recruit to new courses then the standards would be introduced at a later stage.
She also noted that universities may, at the same time as revising the content of their courses, be changing the length of them too, due to education funding reforms.
“There are already discussions being had around the way funding may influence length of programmes – so what universities are going to focus on in a free market economy,” said Ms Kolyva.
She suggested some universities might like to ”do a completely different design of their programme, both in terms of duration and content”.