The introduction of a major new system of nurse competency checks risks being staggered across the UK, because England is lagging behind in its preparation.
Concerns have been raised by leading members of the Nursing and Midwifery Council that revalidation preparation in England is falling behind other UK countries.
At an NMC council meeting last week, council member Stephen Thornton said he was “alarmed” that there was now a high risk the four countries would not be ready to implement revalidation at the same time.
“I’m quite alarmed by the shift from amber to red in terms of system readiness”
NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith acknowledged that preparing for revalidation in England was a “challenge” due to its “size and complexity”.
She said the NMC council would be updated in July on each country’s progress towards being able to introduce the new system of checks. A final decision would be taken in October on whether to give the green light or not.
Ms Smith suggested that the NMC would not automatically delay revalidation for all countries if some were ready before others.
Speaking at the meeting last Thursday, Mr Thornton said: “I’m quite alarmed by the shift from amber to red in terms of system readiness.
“Perhaps we ought to distinguish between the different countries and their stage of readiness,” he said. “Because we could be in a position where we get everything absolutely right and the system still doesn’t deliver. That would be unfortunate.”
He added: “Maybe in our contingency planning for the ‘what ifs’ we might reach a point where we say: ‘Scotland is ready to go’, so we go with Scotland and we’re not in a position to go with England.”
Mr Thornton suggested that the threat of staggered introduction might even encourage progress south of the border.
“Maybe if we start to say that [Scotland should go first] – that might in itself contribute to England getting their act together,” he told the meeting.
Speaking to Nursing Times after the meeting, Ms Smith admitted there were issues in England over engaging with registrants across different settings and organisations about the new system.
However, she said she was not able to comment on whether it was currently expected to delay the introduction of revalidation.
“The issues around England are to do with its size, complexity and the fact it is impossible to get all the key players in one room at one time,” she told Nursing Times.
“The issues around England are to do with its size and complexity”
The launch date for the new system of checks – which replaces PREP (post-registration education and practice) – has already been pushed back by three months to April 2016.
It was originally due to come into effect at the end of December. However, last month the NMC changed information on its website to reveal that the first people to revalidate would now be in April.
The regulator told Nursing Times this was to ensure nurses and midwives had enough time to prepare.
Meanwhile, council papers detailing the latest update on revalidation reveal around a third more people are taking part in the revalidation pilots than was originally expected.
There are just over 2,700 participants across the pilot organisations, up from the 2,000 the NMC expected to recruit.
The latest figures show 930 people have completed the process so far. The NMC’s goal is to reach at least 1,000 by the end of May.
Meanwhile, around 37% of the NMC’s 680,000 registrants have signed up to the regulator’s online system – NMC Online – which will allow people to revalidate.
Ms Smith said the rate of registrants signing up was “faster than we thought it might at this point”. The regulator has set itself a goal of 65% of nurses and midwives being registered for the service by December.