What is advanced clinical practice?
Advanced clinical practice (ACP) is a defined level of practice within clinical professions such as nursing, pharmacy, paramedics and occupational therapy. This level of practice is designed to transform and modernise pathways of care, enabling the safe and effective sharing of skills across traditional professional boundaries.
Advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs) are healthcare professionals, educated to Master’s level or equivalent, with the skills and knowledge to allow them to expand their scope of practice to better meet the needs of the people they care for. ACPs are deployed across all healthcare settings and work at a level of advanced clinical practice that pulls together the four ACP pillars of clinical practice, leadership and management, education and research.
A definition of ACP, its underpinning standards and governance, can be found in the Multi-professional framework for advanced clinical practice in England. The framework ensures there is national consistency in the level of practice across multi-professional roles that is clearly understood by the public, advanced clinical practitioners, their colleagues, education providers and employers.
The roles undertaken by advanced clinical practitioners are determined by the needs of the employer and how they require the level of practice to be deployed within their setting. This may fit with nationally understood roles, such as those within emergency departments or very bespoke roles based upon the needs of a specific population such as an advanced clinical practitioner dietitian running a complex enteral feeding (tube feeding) service for paediatric patients).
Why is advanced clinical practice important?
The NHS Long-Term Plan highlights how advanced clinical practice is central to helping transform service delivery and better meet local health needs by providing enhanced capacity, capability, productivity and efficiency within multi-professional teams.
Developing advanced clinical practice roles, as well as the level of practice just below and above ACP level should be considered a key component of contemporary workforce planning, as described in the NHS Long Term Plan.
How are we progressing the advanced clinical practice programme?
The ACP programme is being progressed through three main workstreams:
- Supporting the development of advanced clinical practice
- Improving supply to meet service needs – expanding advanced clinical practice routes and developing the levels prior to and beyond this level of practice
- Creating the structure and governance for advanced clinical practice
- Updates on progress against these workstreams are available in our newsletters.
- HEE is now developing core capability frameworks for advanced clinical practitioner roles. The Core Capabilities Framework for Advanced Clinical Practice (Nurses) Working in General Practice / Primary Care in England is available and can be accessed below.
Health Education England (HEE), in association with its multi-disciplinary partners, has developed a definition of Advanced Clinical Practice.
Advanced clinical practice is delivered by experienced, registered health and care practitioners. It is a level of practice characterised by a high degree of autonomy and complex decision making. This is underpinned by a master’s level award or equivalent that encompasses the four pillars of clinical practice, leadership and management, education and research, with demonstration of core capabilities and area specific clinical competence.
Advanced clinical practice embodies the ability to manage clinical care in partnership with individuals, families and carers. It includes the analysis and synthesis of complex problems across a range of settings, enabling innovative solutions to enhance people’s experience and improve outcomes.
The ACP definition has been developed to provide clarity for employers, service leads, education providers and healthcare professionals, as well as potential ACPs practising at an advanced level. This is the first time a common multi-professional definition has been developed which can be applied across professional boundaries and clinical settings. The definition serves to support a consistent title and recognises the increasing use of such roles in England.