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Specialist practice qualifications: relief at proposal to retain SPQs

NMC plans to keep district and practice nursing SPQs – while creating generic community award

Regulator had consulted on phasing out specific district and practice nursing qualifications

A proposal to retain specialist nursing qualifications that had been under threat is a huge relief, say campaigners.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) was planning to phase out specialist practice qualifications (SPQs) in district and practice nursing and replace them with a generic community nursing qualification.

But in response to feedback, the regulator now says it will continue to set standards for five such qualifications – as well as developing a generic community nursing qualification – after listening to nurses’ concerns. It intends to carry on identifying individuals’ SPQs in annotations on the register.

A matter of patient safety

Regulator had consulted on phasing out specific district and practice nursing qualifications

Sign saying district nurses – the district nursing specialist qualification had been under threat
Picture: Alamy

A proposal to retain specialist nursing qualifications that had been under threat is a huge relief, say campaigners.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) was planning to phase out specialist practice qualifications (SPQs) in district and practice nursing and replace them with a generic community nursing qualification.

But in response to feedback, the regulator now says it will continue to set standards for five such qualifications – as well as developing a generic community nursing qualification – after listening to nurses’ concerns. It intends to carry on identifying individuals’ SPQs in annotations on the register.

A matter of patient safety

Professor of district nursing Julie Green, who chairs the RCN’s district and community nursing forum, welcomed the change of heart.

District nursing professor Julie Green
Julie Green

‘It’s a huge relief because the annotation of these awards is what drives commissioners to engage with them and allows students to undertake them,’ she said.

‘Patient safety is at risk if you can’t check whether a nurse has that qualification,’ she added.

The role of the generic community qualification

She also welcomed the creation of the generic qualification.

‘There are many defined community roles where there isn’t a qualification that supports them such as Admiral nurses and tissue viability nurses,’ she said.

‘We have just got to keep the pressure on to ensure the standards as written are relevant,’ she added.

NMC director of professional practice Geraldine Walters
Geraldine Walters

The fresh proposal – which will be consulted on early next year – would mean the NMC continues to record SPQs in community children’s nursing, community learning disabilities nursing, community mental health nursing, district nursing and general practice nursing.

Supporting education for new community roles

NMC director of professional practice Geraldine Walters hoped the new community nurse SPQ – which won’t specify a field of practice – would support the education and training of those entering new roles in the community.

‘There is still work to do in finalising the standards. I hope our partners will continue to engage with us and share their feedback openly,’ said Professor Walters.


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