To understand the impact and benefits of changing our standards, we commissioned two pieces of research and gathered views from our stakeholders. This research allowed us to evaluate the advantages to changing our standards, and the degree of consensus about making any changes.

Harlow Consulting carried out a desk-based evidence review and Traverse carried out qualitative stakeholder engagement across the four nations of the UK which garnered 6,266 responses from professionals on our register (including educators), students, employers and patient groups.

There was limited evidence or consensus for change, however the removal of the reference to the EU directive enabled us to work with our subject matter expert groups to review and propose some changes, such as increasing the number of simulation learning hours for nursing students and expanding the variety of placement settings available for midwifery students.

Our next step was to consult on the proposed changes we made to the programme standards. Our consultation was an opportunity for you as a member of the public, patient, user of services, health and care professional, student, employer, union, education institution or representative group to share your thoughts.

Our consultation

Our consultation, which ran between July and September 2022, allowed us to hear informed views from a wide variety of stakeholders so that we could best understand how to refine and implement our proposed changes.

Key proposed changes included increasing flexibility around simulated learning for nurses, and giving education providers more independence to allow them to set more inclusive entry requirements to nursing and midwifery programmes.

Overall, the consultation showed support for the proposed changes to our standards, with educators, young people and student nurses being more likely to agree and welcome the changes than any other audience.

We’re grateful to everyone who shared their views with us about our proposed changes.

To highlight the findings of our consultation, we have published the report by our independent research company, Britain Thinks:

A report into consultation responses

User testing research

In parallel to the consultation, independent research company, Blake Stevenson, conducted user testing of the proposed changes to the standards. The user testing was conducted so that we could understand whether the proposed changes to the standards were comprehensible, inclusive, assessable, and accessible for Approved education institutions (AEIs).

The user testing was conducted in multiple AEIs across the four nations so that we could understand the impact of the changes in different areas of the UK. We’re grateful to the AEIs the participated in this research and who shared their views with us about our proposed changes.

To highlight the findings of the user testing, we have published Blake Stevenson’s report:

A report into user testing of the standards

Equality Impact Assessment

As part of this work, we completed an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA). The EQIA aims to help us better understand the potential effects of the programme standard changes on people with protected characteristics, other characteristics such as socio-economic status and caring responsibilities, and any actions that might need to be taken as a result.

To highlight the findings of the EQIA, we have published a summary report:

Future Programme Standards EQIA Summary

Further research

Colleagues from the NMC also conducted research to understand more about the number of practice hours that other countries mandate in their pre-registration nursing programmes. This is because in some pre-registration nursing programmes outside the EU, their number of practice hours are significantly lower than in the UK or EU.

The UK practice learning hours are in line with those mandated by EU law but  we have been exploring whether it may be appropriate to change the former EU requirements in our standards. The countries we have researched are: Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Our research suggested that practice learning hours for pre-registration programmes in some countries outside the EU are different for a variety of reasons. These may be political, social or historical, such as the political pressures caused by the worldwide nursing shortage.

All countries felt that their practice hours were sufficient to train nurses who were ready to enter the workforce, and several countries pointed out that there was little evidence that increased practice hours would produce better graduates. However, the countries did stress the importance of the quality of the learning experience throughout the student journey and as a new graduate.

To highlight the findings of this research, we have published a report:

A report into overseas practice hours

Next steps

Based on the further research we have carried out, and the feedback we have gathered from key stakeholders about their appetite for more change, we will explore further amendments to the nursing programme standards relating to practice learning hours, incorporating:

  • Wider stakeholder engagement
  • An evaluation of the current experience of implementing up to 600 hours of simulated practice learning through the recovery standard RN6(D)
  • Exploration of any unintended consequences including the shift in hours to Approved Education Institutions (AEIs)
  • Exploration of ways in which quality practice learning experiences can be assured and optimised.