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Regulator drops time limits for completing nurse education


The Nursing and Midwifery Council has approved the removal of mandatory time limits for completing education programmes, handing over the responsibility to universities instead.

With immediate effect, education providers will now decide on the timescales students will have to complete their courses in.

“It’s about treating people fairly and complying with the law”

Jackie Smith

At a council meeting last week, the regulator agreed to the changes to ensure it was complying with equality laws that require students with extenuating circumstances – such as those who are pregnant – to have more flexibility to complete their programmes

Previously, student nurses and midwives were required to finish full-time programmes within five years and part-time programmes within seven years in order to be eligible for registration.

NMC council papers suggested the former time limits put the regulator at risk of being sued for discrimination. Disability discrimination, and pregnancy and maternity discrimination were “likely grounds for legal challenge” under the Equality Act 2010, they stated.

However, the papers also revealed question marks about how the new process would work. A recent public consultation on the changes found general support for the removal of mandatory time limits, but “mixed views” on whether responsibility could be devolved to universities and other education providers.

“Those who were not in favour of the proposals expressed concerns about the variation in decision making among approved education providers and the need for ensuring the currency of knowledge and skills in this area,” stated the papers.

“I don’t think the risks are as great as they are perceived”

Jackie Smith

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith told Nursing Times the NMC was bringing itself into line with other professional regulators and predicted that the changes would only affect a “small number” of people.

“I don’t think the risks are as great as they are perceived,” she said. “They need to be balanced against the requirement to treat people fairly and evenly.”

She added: “The vast majority of nurse and midwives going through a programme will want to get it done as quickly as possible. So we are talking about a small number of people here but it’s about treating people fairly and complying with the law.”

In response to concerns over registrants’ knowledge being out of date if they are allowed to complete their training over a longer period of time, Ms Smith said revalidation would address the problem by ensuring that nurses were competent to practise every three years.


Readers' comments (8)

  • Matthew  Carr

    So only increasing the time? What about people who have the opposite issue? Can you complain about being made to go through 3 years when you can do it in less?

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  • I am not sure how any trainee could have the experience and knowledge to reach the level of registration in less than three years. Do you have a special reason for asking?

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  • I have recently completed a return to practice course there was 16 of us the majority of us did our training old school hands on .Out of six people I have spoken to our competences were signed off in the required one hundred hours 3 of us failed the essay one person got 40% another 41% .Another person got 55% who had previously done a degree .The pass mark was 40% the majority of us have no experience on degree essay writing and were not helped by the university in this area.The wards I have been on with nurses who can write an essay at degree level do not want to help wash patients or get them a commode for them this is disheartening .I have had to be assertive as a patients advocate to even be able to get help to change a wet bed .Where has the heart gone in nursing I understand that we need to keep updated on practices and be well educated but to me being a good nurse hands on is paramount.Basic care and communication has disappeared .

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  • Yawn, here we go again with the "too posh to wash" crap.

    I know this may be a really difficult concept for some people to get, especially when they feel so threatened by some of us going to university rather than training the old way, but it is possible for people to both have an academic award and still undertake personal care.

    Believe it or not, most of us go into this job to look after people, not to be slagged off by our peers.

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  • Well said above, I too am sick of hearing that just because you hold a degree it makes you too 'posh to wash' ! Utter rubbish!

    Actually I have two degrees, so that must mean I am a dreadful uncaring nurse.

    I went into nursing because I want to care for people and I always have. However I also wanted to explore my own potential which isn't a bad thing. I am happy that the knowledge and understanding that I have allows me to provide the best care I can for my patients. It certainly doesn't mean I wont wash a patient or clear up all manner of unspeakable things as we nurses do.

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  • I think this is a fantastic step forward, there any many good student nurses who sail through and complete on time however there are also good nurses who are not so great academically and struggle with the theory side of things who are amazing with patients. I my self have am currently studying for my nursing degree and have, since starting, faced the hardest challenges within my life, Illness within the family, an accident leaving my brother paralysed, a diagnosis for my son and on the positive side the beautiful arrival of a baby girl although she too has some health problems. Ok I chose to have a baby (although she wasn't planned) however the other events have been out of my control and have caused me to have time from out from Uni. Due to the time limit on training I am now struggling with a poorly baby back at Uni way too early, when my mind is not 100% where it should be just so I don't loose the chance of a career I care so much about. This could be an opportunity for those who are capable but face unforeseen circumstances to still achieve their nursing degrees. I personally think this is a good move!

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  • I think it is a good thing to give people the opportunity to complete their studies at a reasonable time

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  • I have completed 2.5 years of my degree starting in 2012, with a one year maternity leave break. I have had a very challenging 6 months and have been unable to complete the course.
    I hoped to transfer to another university closer to my family for support, where I will have to do 18 months not only the final 6, due to continutity. Now the time limit has been dropped, does that mean I am able to do this?

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