The head of the Nursing and Midwifery Council has admitted the third part of its register, covering specialist community public health nurses, is a “shambles” and in need of reform.
NMC chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes yesterday announced a review of entry requirements to the SCPHN register in a speech to the Unite Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association conference.
The register was created in 2004 in recognition of the distinct characteristics of community nursing. It was felt that the fact that nurses working in the community sometimes take decisions on behalf of the whole local population meant a greater degree of public protection was required.
In addition to health visitors and school nurses, part three also includes occupational health nurses and sexual health advisers.
Professor Weir-Hughes, who joined the NMC in 2009, told delegates he did not understand why certain professions had been included on the register when others were not. He suggested occupational health nurses, for example, saw themselves more as nurses rather than SCPHNs.
He said: “There was a lot of lobbying to include certain roles [on the register]. There are roles inside and roles outside and it doesn’t make any sense… I know it’s a bit of a shambles.”
However, he said the NMC’s view was that health visiting should remain a post-registration qualification “for now”, but said there was a debate to be had. The Royal College of Nursing and others had expressed concern that the drive to increase the number of health visitors by 4,200 could lead to a “dumbing down” of the profession.
Professor Weir-Hughes added: “This term ‘specialist’, which is always very contentious - we need to tease out what we mean by that because there are lots of people regulated by the NMC who would regard themselves as specialists but are not on the register.”
The NMC wants to hear registrants’ views on the register and plans to review evidence between now and the end of the year before developing and consulting on proposals between January and March 2012. The regulator hopes to publish final plans by the end of next year.