Campaigners remain sceptical about future of children's nursing specialism

Doubts continue despite a statement of reassurance from the government.
Children's nurse

Campaigners who launched a petition to safeguard children's nursing degree programmes remain sceptical despite a statement of reassurance from the government.

Picture: iStock

Children’s nurse Orla McAlinden and her colleagues took action after becoming concerned about upcoming changes to Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) education standards.

They fear the changes could turn nursing into ‘a generic pathway’ without a children's specialism, and have created an online petition on the UK Government and Parliament website opposing the idea.

Origin of petition

The petition arose from concerns following the Shape of Caring review in 2015, which was published after questions were raised about standards of nurse training following the care scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

The review, commissioned by Health Education England and the NMC, recommends abolishing the four fields of practice and making nursing degrees more generic, with two years of general training followed by one year of specialisation and one of preceptorship.

Almost 17,000 people have added their signatures to the petition, which states: ‘Our children need and deserve appropriately skilled/educated children's nurses. NOT generic nurses (adult) with some limited experience and knowledge.’

Government view

In response, the Department of Health (DH) has published a statement on the petition page.

It reads: ‘The NMC has informed the government that it is not seeking to change the four fields of nursing in a consultation this summer.

‘Between now and 2020 the NMC is delivering a programme of change for education, to ensure that new nurses and midwives are safe, skilled and confident when working across a health and care system that is changing at an unprecedented rate.

‘It is clear that there is a need to move towards standards of proficiency for the future registered nurse which are clearer and more consistent, and which sufficiently equip nurses of the future by focusing on outcomes.

‘The four fields of nursing (adult, children, mental health and learning disability) are currently set out in legislation and any changes to these fields would require the Privy Council to approve a change to NMC’s legislation.

‘This would involve a full public consultation as well as support from the DH and parliamentary approval.’

'Interim position'

Ms McAlinden called the response ‘an interim position’ from the government and added: ‘Thanks to all who signed and shared the petition to save child nursing.

‘I'm noting the skilfully written NMC reply to the government petition, which has just enough obfuscation in it to make it seem the four fields of nursing will be safe – but only for now.

‘We still have no safeguard after 2020.’

The petition is open until 9 August and will be considered for a debate in Parliament if it receives 100,000 signatures.

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