Private organisations are lining up to offer nurses revalidation “sign off” services for a fee when the new system of competency checks comes into effect next year, Nursing Times has learnt.
A number of organisations have told Nursing Times they plan to offer registrants access to a network of nurses and registered healthcare professionals that can sign them off, as part of the new revalidation process.
“I can imagine there are a lot of nurses who don’t particularly want to be confirmed by line managers who they may have differences of opinion with”
But nursing unions have labelled the discovery by Nursing Times as “shocking” and the Nursing and Midwifery Council itself has cautioned against the need to pay for such services.
When revalidation launched for doctors in 2012, new companies sprung up charging sometimes thousands of pounds for revalidation appraisal sessions. It is unclear whether nurses and midwives will be charged similarly high prices.
Dr Karim Stavron, director of the Medical Support Union, said his organisation – which operates on a “not for profit basis” – would be offering an “affordable” service costing less than the £40 going rate he claimed was being charged by competitors.
He said he had already received a large amount of interest – in particular from nurses working at agencies or within the independent sector – for his organisation’s service which will include appraisal and confirmation through access to a network of registered healthcare professionals.
Dr Stavron noted that current guidance for revalidation does not stipulate that nurses must complete revalidation within their employer organisation.
“I can imagine there are a lot of nurses who don’t particularly want to be confirmed by line managers who they may have differences of opinion with,” he told Nursing Times.
“Nursing numbers in the UK are more than doctor numbers so I’m sure there will be a lot of competition”
He acknowledged there had been an “initial wave of opportunism” in 2012 among doctors outside the NHS.
Some had charged “extortionate” amounts of money for revalidation services, he said, though he did not think that would be replicated with nurses due to the differences between the two revalidation systems.
Meanwhile ID Medical – an agency for doctors and nurses – said it would be offering a similar package, including sign-off services.
Licence to Practice, a company which offers appraisal services for doctors to revalidate, said it was also looking into offering appraisals and confirmations for nurses.
Dr Omar Ghazanfar, an independent appraiser at Licence to Practice, said the service would be most suited to nurses outside the NHS – such as independent cosmetic nurses – who would have less access to potential confirmers.
“It is absolutely shocking that external companies could be considering charging”
Although provisional guidance from the NMC states nurses will be able to have their revalidation documentation signed off by a non-registrant, Dr Ghazanfar said many nurses would prefer to use a clinician.
“People I know who are working in the independent cosmetic sector are nurse prescribers and their line manager is not a clinician, which makes their life a bit more tricky as they want a clinician to confirm them,” he said.
He predicted there would be many more companies offering services to nurses than there are for doctors.
“Nursing numbers in the UK are more than doctor numbers so I’m sure there will be a lot of competition, which means the prices will need to be competitive,” he noted.
But nursing organisations have described this type of activity as “shocking” and said registrants should be strongly discouraged from handing over any money for sign-off services.
“We would be appalled if any company tried to make a profit in this way”
They said registrants should not need to resort to this method because employers or professional associations should have systems in place to ensure revalidation can be completed among peers.
“We would be appalled if any company tried to make a profit in this way. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure staff are supported to revalidate,” said Unison’s head of nursing Gail Adams.
“Companies will always seek to make a profit from a new system but that is not the intention of revalidation. Its intention is that it is local and within your employer’s organisation,” she added.
Lou Sommereux, a specialist aesthetic nurse, is a co-founder of the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses which took part in the recent revalidation pilots. She told Nursing Times: “It is absolutely shocking that external companies could be considering charging.”
However, Dr Stavron said it was “nonsense” to think companies should not be charging, noting: “If it’s a good thing for nurses and is implemented well then money should be spent on it.
“Services that are fair and help individual nurses should be costed appropriately and in general MEDSU subscribes to a not-for-profit ethos,” he said.
Dr Ghazanfar at Licence to Practice added: “[This type of service] is relevant for people who don’t have any connections to substantial organisations. The services we would offer would be very cost effective.”
“We do not envisage that anyone would be required to pay for confirmation or an appraisal in order to meet the revalidation requirements”
The NMC noted that there were “significant differences” between revalidation for doctors and for nurses and midwives.
A spokeswoman for the regulator said: “Our revalidation model was designed to ensure that all nurses and midwives can revalidate and, as a result, we do not envisage that anyone would be required to pay for confirmation and/or an appraisal in order to meet the revalidation requirements.
“An appropriate third party confirmer is your line manager,” she said. “We strongly recommend that you obtain confirmation from your line manager wherever possible.”
The NMC completed its pilot of the proposed system of revalidation earlier this summer, with early results concluding it is an “achievable”, “desirable” and “realistic” process.
The regulator’s council will decide in October whether to launch revalidation in April 2016 as planned.