Raising the Bar: Responding to Shape of Caring

12 March 2015

Raising the Bar, the report of the HEE and NMC-sponsored Shape of Caring review of education and training for nurses and care assistants is out today.

It’s worth reading the report in full, particularly because it balances clarity on its core themes (flexibility, career-long education and development, the ability to research and engage in critical inquiry, for example) with a much more exploratory approach than easily comes across in the press or on twitter. On one of the more contentious areas, the four fields and the proposed ‘2+1+1’ model of education, for example, the recommendation is for the NMC to ‘gather evidence, explore and consult’, saying that ‘although strongly advocated [it] is just one possibility; it is not definitive’.

We need to reflect both these sides of Shape of Caring as we respond to it. As a report, it’s a huge opportunity for nursing and it mustn’t be allowed to end up in the long grass. To take just two examples: if the talent of the existing workforce is recognised, invested in and developed in the way that the report envisages then it will have an enormous impact, not only directly on nursing practice but on retaining staff, educating the future workforce and creating the sorts of new services and systems set out in the Five Year Forward View. It’s something we’ve been calling for, not least in our key messages in the run up to the General Election.

Similarly, if the potential of new graduate nurses is built on through preceptorship and if we take up the challenge to think about how a wider skillset can be brought into pre-registration education and preceptorship (more to discuss but we’ve been thinking about independent prescribing and a range of diagnostic skills) we’ll be much better placed to meet the changing needs of patients and families.

At the same time, we need to acknowledge the areas that need more debate. This is particularly true for recommendations that have implications for the NMC, with its UK-wide remit. As a review that originated in England, understanding the differences between the UK home nations and making sure that the debate is genuinely four-country is a must. There’s also a need for serious discussion in England on the funding implications, particularly of addressing post-registration education and career pathways and for thought on the extent to which there is a read across to other professions.

We need to make sure that this report stays at the front and centre of the discussions on nursing, not just now but for the next government and to continue to push to join up the conversation between education, workforce development and service redesign.

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