Why did you feel the need to look at the possibility of a mandatory consolidation period post qualification?
Obviously we already have preceptorship, but the NMC just steers guidelines and it’s up to the employers to support the new qualifieds. When we were developing the consultation and from the reference groups that met it became obvious that some new qualifieds got more support than others.
There are also some groups that are particularly at risk: those who work on their own, are self employed or work for smaller employers where there is less structure.
What was obvious was that in the places where preceptorship works well there is good infrastructure.
So we’re asking should there be a mandatory requirement? And if so, what does that mean the NMC should set outcomes that have to be achieved during that period? How long should that period be? And, the big issue, should it be linked to the first renewal of registration?
If that was supported, we might then say that someone would need to be meeting certain outcomes and that assessment would enable them to meet their registration after three years. Obviously that’s much stronger than the current system.
We consulted on this as part of one of the previous review of fitness to practice at the point of registration. The feeling then was that it should just be guidelines, but we didn’t specifically ask if it should be linked to renewal of registration.
Both the consultation document and the report you commissioned to go with it question to what extent we need specialists and generalists within the profession. Is that in part because we’re falling between two poles with the current system?
We need a workforce that is flexible for the future and obviously we need to pick up on issues come out of Modernising Nursing Careers.
What the consultation is really asking is do we need to look afresh at our current branch arrangements? Do they allow us to be flexible enough to meet the needs of the service?
At the moment there are some indicators that branches serve us quite well but there are others who don’t think that’s the case. But it’s also about what will the service need in the future? And if the branches do need to changed, we need to look afresh at what’s happening not just in the UK but also around the world and in Europe.
Obviously the degree v diploma debate has been running for some time. Do you have an idea of which way it might go? And are their any financial implications if we do move towards a degree only profession?
I think affordability is a question for the government health departments in future. They are obviously aware of what we’re consulting on and they have their own position on making the profession degree level. For example in Wales it’s already happening and there’s a move towards it in Scotland.
I think what we’re waiting to see is what people feel should be the requirement. After that the government health department would have to look at how that would impact on cost.
If you look back over the years there has been a move to degree level preparation. More universities have been offering the degree as well as the diploma programmes. But [from the point of view of the students] obviously there’s a difference because one has a means tested bursary and the other has a non-means test bursary. So in part it comes down to a financial issue. And it’s difficult to know what people want when they have to take that into consideration.
There are arguments for and against having degree level only preparation. Some people are very against it because they argue it could exclude a lot of potentially good nurses. It could go either way.
What we must do as a regulator is look at outcomes in terms of public protection – what level is needed to protect the public? Ultimately that’s what we’re interested in.
What is the process for the consultation?
It’s really important that we spread the word and get people to engage and respond both as individuals and as groups. It’s really important people make their views known.
As well as the web based consultation, 5500 hard copies have been sent to randomly selected registrant members. We are also running focus groups across the UK.
After the consultation closes there will be a two month period of analysis. If there are questions that clearly still need to be asked then we will have the opportunity to ask those questions in various ways. But they will be asked before we move to the next stage. The information will then be drawn up into a framework before any further work begins.
Interview with Emma Vere-Jones