The Department of Health has rowed back from plans to delay nurse revalidation in England, in light of the negative response from the profession’s leaders.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the DH wanted to delay the full introduction of the process for two years, in order to protect trusts that are struggling financially

Nurse student and mentor

UK-wide revalidation for nurse and midwives was one of the recommendations made by the Francis inquiry

It was planning to introduce a “voluntary” system for employers to provide support to registrants – effectively creating a two-tier system and potentially stalling its full introduction. An announcement detailing the plans was due in a letter to be sent on 31 October.

The move would have been in contrast to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have confirmed they are largely ready to implement revalidation as planned. 

However, revelations about the DH plans were met with dismay by both senior nurses and union leaders.

As a result, the DH has now changed its position and is drafting a new letter, which will be sent to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, HSJ’s sister title Nursing Times understands.

It will say that England is ready to introduce revalidation and that trusts will be required to support registrants through the process except in very rare circumstances agreed by regulators, for example, where the whole board or chief executive has resigned.

The new letter will not talk about finances and will say revalidation benefits patients and will claim the DH position has always been that it supports the new system of competency checks.

UK-wide revalidation for nurse and midwives was one of the recommendations made by the Francis inquiry into failings at the former Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust and was subsequently accepted by ministers in their response. A similar system is already in place for doctors.

Under the NMC’s plans, nurses and midwives will need to complete revalidation every three years in order for them to remain on the register and, therefore, be able to practise.

The new checks process, designed as a replacement for the post-registration education and practice system, was piloted by more than 2,000 nurses working at 19 different sites across the UK during the summer.

To revalidate successfully, the NMC’s approved guidance states that registrants will have to complete at least 450 hours of practice, compile five pieces of practice-related feedback and prepare five written reflective accounts relating to the code of conduct.

A reflective discussion with another registrant is also required, as is a health and character declaration and evidence of indemnity insurance.

In addition, registrants must have all of the revalidation requirements “confirmed” and signed off by a third party, who is preferably their line manager but does not have to be an NMC registrant.

Registrants will have to complete a minimum of 35 hours of continuing professional development in the three years prior to registration renewal, with 20 of these hours being participatory.

This represents a change from the original proposal of 40 hours of CPD, following feedback from organisations which tested the system and said there was no evidence of the benefits from this increase.

At its last council meeting on 8 October, the NMC said it was “confident” that, based on the results from the pilots, the introduction of revalidation was “achievable, effective and realistic”.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “As set out in our response to the public inquiry into Mid Staffs, we fully support the principles of revalidation.

“We are working with the Nursing and Midwifery Council to make sure it is introduced in the right way so that it is manageable for trusts and does not divert nurse and midwives from patient care.”