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Practice hours: examining the evidence

07 December 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 22


Sam Foster, Executive Director of Professional Practice, Nursing and Midwifery Council, considers the challenges the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan brings to the question of the number of student practice learning hours

This month, I joined a panel to discuss NHS England's NHS Long Term Workforce Plan (NHS England, 2023). The chair of the panel welcomed the plan, highlighting that significant funding was available to support its delivery. Professionally, we have challenges and opportunities to consider, for example, responding to current and increasing practice placements.

The plan sets out the intention to have 24 000 more nurse and midwife training places a year by 2031. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) sets the pre-registration standards and has come under pressure from stakeholders and politicians to make changes, specifically, reducing the number of hours set as a requirement for nursing and midwifery programmes in the UK. This is currently set at 4600 hours and consists of 2300 theory hours and 2300 practice learning hours. Since January, 600 hours can be used for simulated nursing practice learning.

The plan outlines that NHS England will work with the NMC to explore the potential for further changes to nursing degrees. This includes considering how graduate nurses can join the register after fewer practice hours – 1800 rather than 2300 hours, citing different models globally.

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