The Nursing and Midwifery Council has announced a review of public health nursing.
The NMC said the review would look at whether its registration conditions for health visitors, school and health protection nurses and sexual health advisers were “appropriate for modern public health nursing”.
There are 25,800 registrants under these categories, known collectively as the “third part” of the register, and 20,000 of them are health visitors.
At present there is no direct entry to the third part and registrants must be qualified nurses or midwives then move with extra qualifications or experience.
However, the NMC’s move follows Nursing Times’ revelation last week the government is considering fast tracking health visitor training to meet the Conservative election pledge to employ an extra 4,200 by 2015 (news, page 1, 14 September).This prompted fears the health visitor role will be “dumbed down”.
NMC chief executive Dickon Weir-Hughes said he planned to announce a review timetable soon and was “committed to thinking radically” how regulation of health visitors should work.
Unite, which hosts the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association, welcomed the move. Lead professional officer for the health sector Obi Amadi said: “Health visitors’ knowledge and skills are quite distinct and in some areas employers require that other roles do things that they are not qualified to do. For example, it’s not safe for a nursery nurse to make a new birth visit.”
Association of Directors of Public Health chief executive Nicola Close said there should be no dilution of the roles on the third part of the register.
She said: “These people are front line and they should have proper training.”