Advanced Practice Nursing in the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland)

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Contact:
Nursing & Midwifery Council
Royal College of Nursing

Country Specific Resource Links:
Advanced Practice Toolkit – repository for UK specific resources for practice

Role

The role of Advanced Practice Nurses in the United Kingdom (UK) is primarily represented as Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANPs; RCN, 2012).  While the title of ANP is used by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), there had been inconsistencies among the general public as to the term to call ANPs in the country, and various are used as: advanced clinical practice (ACP) nurse, nurse practitioner, registered nurse practitioner, clinical nurse practitioner, senior nurse practitioner, advanced nurse practitioner, and association nurse practitioner (Morgan, 2010; RCGP, 2020).

The ANP role was first introduced in the UK with the initiation of a Nurse Practitioner program focusing on primary health care at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in 1991-1992 (NP/APN Network, 2020; Sheer & Wong, 2008).  Much of the push for development of this role was to ease the overbearing workload of the general practitioners (primary care physicians) in the country, and this largely continues to drive the need for this role (NP/APN Network, 2020; Pulcini, Jelic, Gul, & Loke, 2009).  Delamaire and Lafortune (2010), further identified that improving the quality of care additionally drives role development in the UK.

While the role has been continually developed and internationally is considered at a more advanced stage of APN advancement, the role is not formally regulated which greatly prevents further advancement and maintains inconsistencies in both educational and professional standards (Evans et al., 2020; NP/APN Network, 2020).

Currently ANPs in the UK have both prescriptive authority and work autonomously, two role qualities that have demonstrate significant advancement of the advanced practice nurse role (RCN, 2013; RCN, 2022).  Because of the origination in primary care, the ANP role in the UK is to perform the same care as a general practitioner (Morgan, 2010).  Additionally, the role has progressively been integrated and widely embraced in the UK health system (Evans et al., 2020).

Outside of the ANP role in the UK, there are various specializations offered for general nurses allowing them to become a level 2 nurse, which is a role that is registered by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in the UK (NMC, 2013).  While these roles do require additional education, they are not the same as the ANP role described above.

There is a role of the midwife in the UK regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Board.  This role is unique in that all midwives have a supervisor midwife to provide a check in quality of care, reflecting a role and regulatory structure existing since 1902 (NMC, 2010).

Education and Certification

Education for the Advanced Nurse Practitioner in the UK has been occurring at the masters level for more than 20 years and the majority of ANPs in the UK possess a graduate degree (Delamaire & Lafortune, 2010; RCN, 2022; Savrin, 2009).   While the recommended standard for advanced nurse practitioners in the UK is set by the recommendations by the Royal College of Nursing, it is not required that all educational programs in the country follow these recommendations, and consequentially the role varies according to health institution’s policies (Evans et al., 2020; King, Tod, & Sanders, 2017; Morgan, 2010).

Registration as an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in the UK is required as a nurse, and there is not a separate registry outside of that of the general nursing registry (RCN, 2022b).  Licensure of nursing is accepted from other nations as an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, provided an individual can follow the required process to do so (RCN, 2022b).

To help with APN role standardization, as of 2017 the RCN proposed a national certification to provide regulation for the standard scope of practice.  While the momentum to provide such standardization has been growing over the years, inconsistency in advanced nursing education continues to beleaguer role continuity (Evans et al., 2020; King, Tod, & Sanders, 2017; NP/APN Network, 2020).

Specialties

The role of the ANP in the UK was greatly focused on primary health care (Pulcini et al., 2009).

For registered nurse specialists, there are currently various specialties that level 1 nurses can specialize in (RCN, 2013):

  • Registered specialist community public health nurse (SCPHN) qualification in
    • Family
    • Health visitor
    • Occupational health
    • Non-specific
    • School nurse
  • Specialist Practice Qualification
    • Adult nursing
    • Children’s nursing
    • Community children’s nursing
    • Mental health nursing
    • District nursing
    • General practice nursing
    • Learning disability nurse
    • Mental health

While these are the registration qualifications recognized by the NMC in the UK, nurses can have a specialization in a specific subject of nursing (i.e. epilepsy, Parkinson’s, cancer).

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References:
Delamaire, M. & Lafortune, G. (2010). Nurses in advanced roles: A description and evaluation of experiences in 12 developed countries.  OECD Health Working Papers, 54, OECD Publishing.http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5kmbrcfms5g7-en

Evans, C., Pearce, R., Greaves, S., & Blake, H. (2020). Advanced clinical practitioners in primary care in the UK: A qualitative study of workforce transformation.  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 17(4500), doi:103390/ijerph17124500

King, R., Tod, A., & Sanders, T. (2017). Development and regulation of advanced nurse practitioners in the UK and internationally. Nursing Standard, 32(14). pp.43-50.  doi: 10.7748/ns.2017.e10858

Morgan, S. (2010, July 9).  What are the differences in nurse practitioner training and scope of practice in the US and UK?  NursingTimes.net.  Retrieved from: http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/clinical-zones/district-and-community-nursing/what-are-the-differences-in-nurse-practitioner-training-and-scope-of-practice-in-the-us-and-uk/5017012.article

NP / APN Network (2020). Guidelines on advanced practice nursing 2020 [online publication].   International Council of Nurses. Geneva, Switzerland.

Nursing and Midwifery Council [NMC] (n.d.).  Registering as a nurse or midwife in the United Kingdom: For applicants outside the European Economic Area [online document].  Retrieved from: http://www.nmc-uk.org/Documents/Registration/Registering%20as%20a%20nurse%20or%20midwife%20from%20outside%20EU%20or%20EEA.pdf

Pulcini, J., Jelic, M., Gul, R, Loke, A.Y. (2009).  An international survey on advanced practice nursing, education, practice, and regulation.  Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 42(1),31-39.  doi: 10.1111/j.1547-5069.2009.01322.x

Robinson, S. & Griffiths, P. (2007).  Nursing education and regulation: International profiles and perspectives [online publication].  Retrieved from:http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/348772/1/NurseEduProfiles.pdf

Royal College of General Practitioners [RCGP] (2020). Core capabilities framework for advanced clinical practice (nurses) working in general practice / primary care in England [online book]. Health Education England, NHS. England.

Royal College of Nursing [RCN] (2012).  Advanced nurse practitioners: An RCN guide to advanced nursing practice, advanced nurse practitioners and programme accreditation [electronic document].  Retrieved from: http://www.rcn.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/146478/003207.pdf

Royal College of Nursing [RCN] (2013).  RCN Factsheet: Specialist nursing in the UK.  Retrieved from: http://www.rcn.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/501921/4.13_RCN_Factsheet_on_Specialist_nursing_in_UK_-_2013.pdf

Royal College of Nursing [RCN] (2022a). Advanced practice standards. Retrieved June 19, 2022 from: https://www.rcn.org.uk/Professional-Development/Advanced-Practice-Standards

Royal College of Nursing [RCN] (2022b). Register as a nurse or midwife if you trained outside the UK. Retrieved June 19, 2022 from: https://www.nmc.org.uk/registration/joining-the-register/register-nurse-midwife/trained-outside-uk/

Savrin, C. (2009). Growth and development of the nurse practitioner role around the globe.  Journal of Pediatric Health Care 23, (5),310-314.

Sheer, B. (2007).  Nurse practitioners on the move: The journey to the United States.  Topics In Advanced Nursing eJournal. 7(2).  Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/560673

Sheer, B. & Wong, F.K. (2008).  The development of advanced nursing practice globally.  Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 40(3),204-211.

[Originally Published October 7, 2013. Updated June 19, 2022]