Research into 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 won’t make any changes without a full consultation.

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 excellent care.

These 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 learning that reflects real life practice.
  • 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 to avoid duplication.

We also want to continue to explore and seek additional evidence to support educational innovation in the future.

  • We want to talk to our stakeholders about modernising standards on placement settings for nursing and midwifery students.
  • 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 numbers of specific experiences required during midwifery education (such as number of births) as this requires further exploration with subject matter experts.
  • 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.
  • Keep our current focus on embedding and evaluating our new midwifery standards before making any wider changes to our programme standards.

Next steps

Our Council considered and approved these proposals at their meeting on 29 September 2021.

We know any significant changes to our education programme standards need to be carefully co-produced with stakeholders. We’re working with groups of subject matter experts to help us to refine and work on the detail of the changes to the standards proposed above.

Our Future Programme Standards Steering Group is reviewing and discussing 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.

It’s chaired by Prof Jean White CBE, former CNO for Wales. Jean’s nursing career spans more than 40 years. As well as her tenure as a CNO, Jean brings a wealth of experience from her previous and current roles with Higher Education Institutions in Wales, as a mentor in the Ethnic Minority Women in Healthcare Wales programme, and as expert nurse advisor to the World Health Organisation European Regional Office.

We won’t make any changes without a full public consultation, which we expect will take place later this year – and we’ll want to hear your views then too.

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