Council to decide on modernisation of education programme standards

Published on 23 January 2023

We’re asking our Council to approve changes to pre-registration education programme standards that will give educators the flexibility to deliver courses at the cutting edge of nursing and midwifery education.

At the Council meeting on 25 January, the Council approved proposed changes to our programme standards. The current standards are still in effect, but we will be working with Approved Education Institutions to implement the new changes to their programmes.

Find the updated standards here

Now we’ve left the EU, we’re no longer required to include some European regulations in our standards. We’re taking the opportunity to make changes that will enable a broader range of students to join our register with the knowledge and skills to provide safe, effective and kind care for people.

Our proposed changes

Our final proposals, which our Council will consider at its meeting on 25 January, follow months of research and collaboration with stakeholders across the UK. More than 6,200 people and partners shared their initial views, followed by 2,500 responses to a public consultation. We’ve worked closely with subject matter experts who have advised on, reviewed, and approved proposed changes.

  • For nursing only, we’re increasing flexibility around use of simulated practice learning. Education institutions will now be able to run innovative simulation for 600 of the 2,300 practice learning hours that students need. Simulation methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated, helping students to build their confidence and skills in situations they may not encounter frequently in practice.
  • We’re giving education institutions more flexibility to set their own robust entry requirements – including removing the need for at least 12 years’ general education before starting a nursing or midwifery programme. Our discussions with stakeholders found the concept of ‘general education’ is arbitrary, open to interpretation and can mean different things in different locations. Removing this will make a career in nursing or midwifery a reality for more people, such as refugees and those from travelling communities.
  • We’re removing EU stipulations about the settings in which nursing and midwifery practice placements must take place. This will allow students to do all their practice learning in the settings most relevant to them.
  • We’re proposing a new midwifery standard to ensure students gain experience with a range of maternity providers and teams.

Further work

Our research and feedback showed some stakeholders want us to take this work further. We’re considering more changes to our nursing programme standards, particularly around the number of practice learning hours. This will involve wider stakeholder engagement, looking at the impact of lowering the number of practice learning hours, and exploring the best ways to quality assure practice learning settings. We’ll keep stakeholders updated as this work progresses.

Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC Chief Executive and Registrar, said:

“It’s essential that nursing and midwifery education is accessible to the broadest possible range of students and prepares them to meet people’s changing and increasingly complex needs. That’s why we’ve drawn on evidence and best practice to propose changes that will widen access to courses and give students the best possible education that enables them to provide excellent care to people.

“We’re grateful to everyone who has collaborated with us to reach this point. Thousands of people and partners have shared their views and expertise, and we’re reassured by the support for our proposals. We’ll keep students, educators, and our stakeholders updated about these changes and any further work as we move forward and explore even more flexible options.”

Professor Jean White CBE, Chair of the Future Programme Standards Steering Group, said:

"It has been rewarding to see how the opportunities presented to us have enabled the NMC to make improvements to the nursing and midwifery programme standards. I would like to thank the Steering Group members for their enthusiasm and hard work; it has been excellent being able to co-produce these updated standards with a range of skilled professionals from across the four countries and from across the health and social care sector."

Further information:

  • Further details about the proposals for our pre-registration programme standards can be found in our latest Council papers.  
  • Information about why we reviewed our pre-registration programme standards can be found on our website.

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