Future consultation on pre-registration programme requirements

Our programme standards set out how nursing and midwifery courses should be delivered to ensure that programmes leading to registration are fit for purpose.

Some of our current standards reflect EU law. But as the UK has left the EU, we now have full responsibility for setting these standards ourselves, and we can change the EU requirements within our standards.

We’ve already carried out some research and spoken with our stakeholders to understand the impact and benefits of doing this. We will be consulting this summer on our proposed changes.

This page sets out the findings of this research and our proposed next steps.

Building our evidence

We commissioned two pieces of research to help understand the impact of the EU standards, and our stakeholders' views, and to test whether there would be any benefit 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.

This included a survey of professionals on our register (including educators), students, employers and patient groups, which received 6,266 responses. We’re grateful to everyone who has shared their views so far.


Outcome and proposals for change

The research we commissioned, including the majority of our stakeholders’ views, provided little evidence to support changes to many areas of our existing standards.

In the light of these findings, we're proposing some changes to our standards. We believe these will ensure that courses are more flexible and accessible, and will continue to give students the best possible education and support to provide safe, effective and kind care.

These proposed changes include:

  • Replacing the EU requirements for nursing and midwifery student selection and entry to give institutions more flexibility to determine their own entry requirements, helping them to be more inclusive and widen participation.
  • For nursing only, increasing flexibility around use of simulated practice learning.
  • Removing the EU requirements for knowledge and skills from the nursing and midwifery programme standards where these requirements are now incorporated into our standards of proficiency, seeking to avoid duplication.  We agreed that the specific number of some experiences for midwifery programmes would remain and propose adding these requirements directly into our programme standards.
  • Removing the EU requirements for nursing and midwifery placement settings, which are driven by our standards of proficiency, and adding a requirement to the midwifery standards to ensure students experience different maternity providers. This will give student midwives more breadth and more diverse placement provision than what is currently required by the EU.

We want to work with stakeholders to find out whether they would be open to more radical change in some areas. For example, areas where there isn’t currently a clear consensus about the best approach.

Pending further evidence becoming available, we're proposing to keep the remaining standards that were previously EU directive requirements:

  • Keep the current minimum programme length of three years and the total number of hours (4600) for nursing and midwifery; and the same standards for recognition of prior learning for nursing. We’ve now started some additional research into programmes in other countries that are delivered with fewer practice hours than the UK. We expect to report on the findings of this research in January 2023.
  • Keep our current focus on embedding and evaluating our new midwifery standards before making any wider changes to our programme standards.

We know any significant changes to our education programme standards need to be carefully co-produced with stakeholders, which is why we’ve been working with groups of subject matter experts to help us to refine and work on the detail of the changes before we consult.

Our Future Programme Standards Steering Group reviewed and discussed all draft proposals around this work, to advise our Executive Board and Council. The group consists of key partners representing all four UK countries, including representatives from the four Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) offices, health education bodies, representative bodies and unions.

Find out more about our Future Programme Standards Steering Group

View our draft standards for education programmes

Next steps

Following approval from our Council, we will be running a consultation between July and September, which will allow us to hear informed and useful views from a wide variety of stakeholders on the draft proposals. We want to hear from educators, students, employers, professionals, the public and anyone else who may be impacted by these proposed changes.

We will use the feedback from the consultation to refine, change or amend our draft proposals before seeking approval by Council and implemented.

Throughout the consultation period, we will continue to work with our subject matter expert groups, including the Steering Group, as we research the context in which other countries deliver nursing programmes on less practice learning hours, and to explore further proposals.

For more information on this work in the meantime, please contact Sue West, Senior Nursing Education Adviser.