Advanced practice

Learn more about advanced and enhanced practitioners and what they can do to support your multi-disciplinary teams.

23 November 2023

Learn more about advanced practitioners and other clinicians working at an enhanced practice level and what they can do to support your multi-disciplinary teams across a wide range of care settings.

Advanced practice

Advanced practice is a level of practice in which a practitioner has demonstrated their ability to work autonomously at a high level (level 7/ Masters level) across all four pillars of advanced practice. The four pillars of advanced practice are clinical practice, leadership and management, education, and research. Read our page on the role of governance in advanced practice, and how the Governance Maturity Matrix can help you effectively implement it into your organisation.

Advanced practitioners (also commonly referred to as advanced clinical practitioners, or ACPs) can be found across a range of professional backgrounds and settings including but not limited to nursing, pharmacy, paramedics, other allied health professions, and midwifery. The term advanced practitioner is used as a consensus umbrella term to encompass the wide range of registrants who work in advanced practice roles, often with variable job role titles, for example (though not exclusively): advanced clinical practitioner, advanced nurse practitioner, ‘advanced paramedic practitioner; advanced physiotherapist practitioner; or advanced pharmacist.

Advanced practitioners are educated to Masters level and map to NHS England’s (2017) Multi-professional framework for advanced clinical practice in England, the framework sets the minimum standard for the safe and effective requirements for clinicians working at this level to take on expanded roles within their scope of practice. 

Having healthcare professionals at advanced level increases capacity and capability within services. By integrating into multi-professional teams, advanced practitioners provide clinical leadership and enable collaboration across the multi-disciplinary team through complex decision making and managing risk. This also gives organisations a flexible workforce to meet changing population, patient, and service delivery needs. Advanced practitioners help to improve clinical continuity and provide high-quality care for patients. They enable workforce transformation to initiate a wider range of advanced clinical care being provided by a varied range of multi-professional clinicians rather than focusing on medical doctors as the sole providers of advanced clinical care.  Advanced practitioners can accelerate access to care for patients and help to improve outcomes. 

For further information about advanced practice please visit NHS England's website.

Four pillars of advanced practice

To be a recognised advanced practitioner, statutory registered healthcare professionals must undergo training to align to the NHS England multi-professional framework and demonstrate the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviours that align with the four pillars of advanced practice. This can be by undertaking an NHS England accredited Level 7 advanced practice Masters or by successfully completing the ePortfolio route. NHS England have a list of accredited advanced practice Masters programmes.

  • Advanced practitioners are role models within their environment. Leadership, resilience, and determination are key qualities for advanced practitioners to be able to manage complex and unpredictable situations. After undertaking the advanced practice Masters there are courses and resources available to further develop this pillar including NHS Leadership Academy. Advanced practitioners may choose leadership careers such as advanced practitioner lead roles.

  • Clinical practice requires advanced practitioners to be responsible for and provide high quality, safe and effective person-centred care. Development in this area depends on the scope of practice of the role which can be acquired by undertaking an NHS England accredited Level 7 advanced practice Masters and practical experience through supervision, mentoring, and peer review.

  • Research is essential for advanced practitioners to inform their practice. It is also about critically engaging in research activity and using evidence-based strategies to improve and enhance the quality of patient care. Advanced practitioners may also progress towards healthcare research careers. 

  • As an advanced practitioner it is important to assess and address learning needs to develop across the four pillars of practice. Engaging in self-directed learning and reflecting on progress and development areas through appraisal can aid growth. It is important to allow the wider team to identify their educational needs and support inter-professional learning. Advanced practitioners may also consider pursuing an education role in healthcare. 

Multi-professional framework for advanced clinical practice

In 2017, NHS England developed the Multi-professional framework for advanced clinical practice in England, which ensures there is national consistency and common expectations about advanced practice. This is the first time that a national framework for multi-professional advanced practice has existed in England, and it has established a shared understanding of advanced practitioners and how they can be deployed to deliver better patient care.

The framework offers opportunities for career progression, development of knowledge, skills, and experience such as clinical reasoning, diagnostic decision making, and leadership in practice. The framework includes:

  • a national definition of the advanced practitioner role
  • the entry requirements
  • guidance and principles that advanced practitioners should adhere to in their professional practice
  • a clear career pathway into and within advanced practice across professions.

Subsequently, building on the framework NHS England has recently worked to define curricula, known as credentials, which set out the purpose, learning content structure and training for discretely defined scopes of advanced practice. The purpose of the credentials is to:

  • develop specific capabilities, thereby contributing to system-wide, sustainable workforce development and deployment
  • develop area-specific advanced practice capability and capacity within areas of high-priority population, patient care and service delivery needs
  • increase efficiencies in workforce development, including by supporting education providers to respond to priority needs at pace and scale, and with consistency
  • enabling local governance arrangements for safe and effective advanced practice workforce deployment and mobility.

Access NHS England’s Centre for advancing practice website for further information about published credentials for advanced practice.

The ePortfolio (supported) route

NHS England's Centre for Advancing Practice designed the ePortfolio (supported) route to enable recognition of existing, experienced advanced practitioners, who currently work in advanced practitioner roles. This route has been designed to evidence the equivalence of former education and training to the more recent requirements set out in the multi-professional framework. 

Further information and details for upcoming cohorts into this route are on NHS England's ePortfolio webpage. You can read more about the process of application and eligibility criteria in the advanced practitioner applicants' guide.

What can advanced practitioners do and how can their advanced practice be governed?

Health and care professionals working at an advanced practice level will be able to evidence the underpinning competencies, skills, and behaviours applicable to the specialty or health and care setting and job role they are working within. As part of the multi-professional framework for advanced clinical practice in England, advanced practitioners must be able to evidence additional core capabilities across four pillars: clinical practice, leadership, and management, education and research.

Advanced practitioners can demonstrate expertise and professional judgement to achieve these capabilities in areas such as: clinical examination, diagnostic decision making and therapeutics, collaborative communication skills in consultations, critical thinking, and clinical decision-making, and the leadership they demonstrate in their teams and services.

These advanced capabilities can be demonstrated in different ways depending on the setting or role that the practitioner is practicing, which means that there is flexibility for employers to determine how advanced practitioners demonstrate these capabilities, based on person centred care around the service, patient, team, and organisational needs.

Credible governance of the processes for developing and implementing advanced practice in provider organisations is essential for the safe, effective, and successful employment of advanced practitioners in provider organisations across all clinical settings from acute care, community care, mental health, and primary care. Consistent governance of advanced practice within provider organisations also ensures the advanced practitioner workforce is maximally productive for expediting access to care and optimising outcomes for patients. NHS England has published self-assessment guidance on effective governance of advanced practice within provider organisations in its Governance Maturity Matrix

Workplace supervision of trainee advanced practitioners

Existing workplace supervision practices may not map neatly to the learning needs of developing multi-professional advanced practitioners or trainees. A range of practical and comprehensive guidance for the workplace supervision of advanced practice trainees can be found in NHS England’s (2022) guidance for Advanced practice workplace supervision: Minimum standards for supervision and for further developing supervision and assessment of advanced practice trainees, organisations should be implementing NHS England’s guidance on Workplace supervision for advanced clinical practice: An integrated multi-professional approach to practitioner development.

Find out more about advanced practice

There is a level 7 (Masters level) apprenticeship in advanced clinical practice available, which can be funded for organisations through the apprenticeship levy. Visit the Skills for Health website for further information about the advanced clinical practitioner (Integrated Degree) apprenticeship. For more information about NHS England's work on advanced level practice,  visit the Centre for Advancing Practice and our page on the Advanced Practice Governance Maturity Matrix.

NHS England has also developed a useful advanced practice toolkit on how this level of practice can be applied to specific roles.

Watch how Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust are using the apprenticeship route to train their Advanced Clinical Practitioners in this video.

NHS England has added credentials for health and care professionals working in learning disabilities and autism services, to expand their professional competencies. For a full list of the credentials available, please visit the NHS England website.

Enhanced level practice 

Enhanced practice is a level of practice healthcare professionals can attain and is used to describe the practice of highly experienced, knowledgeable healthcare professionals. It can be the level of practice before advanced practice or a level practice in which people may choose to stay. Those working at an enhanced level of practice can work as part of a multi-disciplinary team across a wide range of health and care settings, including hospitals, community, primary care, social care, general practice, and dentistry and as with advanced practice come from all multi-professional backgrounds. 

An enhanced clinical practitioner apprenticeship has recently become available; this is typically a level 6 course and can be funded through the apprenticeship levy with a usual duration of 18 months. Employers can opt to use level 7 education within the apprenticeship if they would like to.

There is no definitive list of professional backgrounds that are suited to enhanced level practice, but prospective apprentices must be registered with one of the statutory healthcare regulators, or Social Work England, or with one of the following accredited voluntary registers: The Academy for Healthcare Science, Register of Clinical Technologists or Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists. The apprenticeship is about the level of practice so is not limited to traditional boundaries of clinical specialisms or care settings. 

Enhanced practice healthcare professionals have many job titles and roles across the range of different healthcare professions. They typically have undertaken post-registration education relevant to their area of practice and role. They usually work as part of a multi-disciplinary team and apply their enhanced skills, knowledge, and experience to substantially contribute to episodes of care. Although they work across different settings or spheres of practice, they will often have a skillset and depth of knowledge related to their individual specific sphere of practice. 

What is the difference between advanced, enhanced and consultant level practice?

Enhanced practice

Enhanced practice describes experienced, knowledgeable healthcare professionals. Enhanced practitioners primarily work within the clinical pillar as part of a multi-disciplinary team across a wide range of health and care settings from all multi-professional backgrounds. 

Read more about enhanced practice on NHS England’s enhanced practice webpage and Skills for Health’s enhanced practitioner apprenticeship guide.

Practitioners working at an enhanced level of practice must make complex decisions using specific knowledge and skills in a field of expertise. They manage discrete aspects of a patient’s care in their current level of practice, which will be particular to a specific context.

Advanced practitioners are experienced statutory registered healthcare professionals that have had additional training on top of their base profession. As part of an organisational workforce plan, they have greater autonomy as they are responsible for and provide high quality, safe and effective person-centred care across the four pillars of advanced practice. 

The enhanced clinical practitioner apprenticeship can form part of a career framework that can progress onto advanced practice roles. Employers are encouraged to build the case in integrating enhanced and advanced level practice into the workforce to redesign care across health and care settings. NHS England published detailed guidance on enhanced practice in its Employer’s guide to the enhanced clinical practitioner apprenticeship

Find full details of the apprenticeship standards on the Institute for Apprenticeships website. For more information, you can also access the enhanced practitioner apprenticeship FAQs.

Consultant practice

Advanced practitioners can further develop to consultant level with the right level of training and experience. The required capabilities for this level of practice are outlined in the multi-professional consultant-level practice capability and impact framework. 

NHS England’s consultant level self-assessment tool supports practitioners with the developmental pathway from advanced to consultant level. It enables them to evidence the impact of the role on practice. It recognises that pathways are unique to the learning and development needs of the individual, their practice setting and the needs and priorities of the services in which they work.

Advanced Critical Care Practitioners (ACCPs)

ACCPs are part of the multidisciplinary team that work in intensive care medicine, that are able to assess and manage patients receiving critical care and perform several minor procedures and invasive interventions for those patients under appropriate supervision. We have more detailed information on ACCPs, the training and qualifications needed, and how they fit into the NHS workforce on our dedicated ACCP page. 

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