University of Chester

Programme Specification
Specialist Practice Community (Mental Health Nursing) GradDip
2014 - 2015

Graduate Diploma

Specialist Practice Community (Mental Health Nursing)

Specialist Practice Community (Mental Health Nursing)

University of Chester

University of Chester

University of Chester / Department of Health Education and Training Centre, Isle of Man.

Professional/ Specialist/ Community/ Advanced Practice (Nursing & Midwifery)

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

1 year full time, 2 years part time

4 Years

Annual - September



17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Health and Social Care Health and Social Care

Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) Standards of Specialist Education and Practice (2001).

Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Faculty of Health and Social Care, Post Registration Undergraduate Assessment Board

Wednesday 1st May 2013

The overarching aim of this programme is to enable students to deliver appropriate health and social care within a dynamic and diverse community environment. 

 The specific programme aims are:

  • To facilitate the development of a Community Specialist Practitioner who will be fit for practice, fit for purpose and fit for award.
  • To offer a dynamic and quality educational experience relevant to a Specialist Practitioner (Mental Health Nursing),
  • To enable graduates to work in a critical, analytical and reflective manner, and to provide them with the opportunity to acquire lifelong learning skills.
  • To be cognisant of the holistic nature of community care and to enable students to gain knowledge, expertise and the individual qualities necessary to further develop as autonomous, competent practitioners.
  • To enable graduates to innovate and apply contributions to the evidence base of practice.
  • To develop the students’ skills in collaborative practice and the partnership delivery of care.
  • To provide an understanding of the purpose and principles of public health in relation to specialist practice in community nursing.
  • To develop leadership and facilitation skills, which will enable students to complement best practice in service delivery.

Knowledge and Understanding

The ability to:

  • Critically discuss key concepts, principles, theories and policies in community and public healthpractice
  • Critically review the uniqueness of their owncommunity roleand the diversity of other inter-disciplinary roles, and how they can be utilised to empower individuals, groups and communities
  • Demonstrate an evidence-based approach to the ongoing development of their community role and the dissemination of information
  • Critically analyseprofessional, legal and ethical issues.

Thinking or Cognitive Skills

The ability to:
  • Demonstrateindependence of thought, and the ability to think logically and critically
  • Recognise, evaluate and respond to community policy initiatives at individual, local and national levels
  • Access, analyse and process evidence-based information applicable to community practice
  • Utilise analytical skills when evaluating professional work from both professional and service user perspectives
  • Demonstrate a reflective approach to continuing community professional development
  • Appraise own learning needs as a reflexive community practitioner
  • Demonstrate innovative and creative thinking strategies.

Practical Skills

The ability to:
  • Achieve a range of appropriate practice skills relevant to their community role
  • Apply safely a range of relevant assessment, intervention and evaluation strategies in the community practitioner role
  • Communicate effectively with individuals, groups and communities
  • Demonstrate evidence-based practice
  • Demonstrate collaborative, interdisciplinary working practices and partnerships
  • Demonstrate effective community profiling skills.

Key Skills
  • Communication
  • Application of Number
  • Information Literacy and Technology
  • Improving own learning and performance
  • Working with others
  • Problem solving

The ability to:
  • Demonstrate self-direction in both formal and informal learning environments
  • Communicate effectively at both individual and organisational levels
  • Be competent in the use of IT
  • Work autonomously and collaboratively within an inter-professional environment
  • Demonstrate literacy and numeracy skills
  • Apply a problem solving approach to evidence-based decision making

Transferable Professional Skills

The ability to:
  • Demonstrate self-direction in both formal and informal learning environments
  • Communicate effectively at both individual and organisational levels
  • Be competent in the use of IT
  • Work autonomously and collaboratively within an inter-professional environment
  • Demonstrate literacy and numeracy skills
  • Apply a problem solving approach to evidence-based decision making
  • Reflect on practice.

The Graduate Diploma Specialist Practice Community (Mental Health Nursing) programme of study may be undertaken on either a full or part-time basis. The full-time route is a 40 week equivalent programme. Students who wish to access the programme must have 120 credits at level 5 (or equivalent). The programme conforms to the NMC (2001) Standards of Education and Practice. Students can take a flexible approach to completion, and normally have between one and three years to obtain the award in order to meet NMC (2001) requirements.

The programme contains seven modules - five 20 credit modules and two modules attracting 10 credits each.

120 level 6 credits may be achieved by the end of the 40 week full time equivalent taught programme. The programme is offered on a modular basis and is designed to meet the criteria set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council Specialist Practice Competencies.

The programme comprises 50% theory and 50% practice. For each  20 credit module, the time required to prepare for and to produce assessable work and to prepare for examinations is calculated as 200 hours, inclusive of time spent in class contact with tutors. The programme offers a common core of preparation and specific modules. The core modules consist of no less than one third and no more than two thirds of the total programme. All modules have internal integrity and the capacity to be linked to other modules to form a coherent programme of learning. The content of the programme takes into account the need for specialist practitioners to exercise higher levels of judgement, discretion and decision making, focusing on four broad areas:

  • Clinical practice.
  • Care and programme management.
  • Clinical practice development.
  • Clinical practice leadership.

The content also reflects the fact that specialist practice will enable the monitoring and improving of standards of care through supervision of practice, clinical audit, practice development through research, teaching and support of colleagues, and the provision of skilled professional leadership.

The programme will offer flexible modes of delivery in collaboration with the trusts or employing organisation. The programme is linked to a higher education accreditation system, with existing mechanisms for the award of credit for appropriate learning and prior experiential learning. The maximum contact hours (direct teacher/learner interaction) are within the recommended range for level 6 modules – i.e. 25-35 hours of student contact. The NHS North West Strategic Health Authority has commissioned this course having identified local need, and has undertaken to meet the financial costs of delivering the programme. Modules are designed and delivered in accordance with the Framework in Higher Education Qualification (FHEQ, 2008), using their stated credit level descriptors as a reference point. The programme is equally divided between theoretical study and practice.


Please note, that having been granted derogation from the University Regulations, the following applies to this programme:-

Students must pass every component and module, with a minimum mark of 40%

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
NM6173 6 Community Practitioner Nurse Prescribing (V100) 10 Optional
NM6174 6 Leading Specialist Practice 20 Comp
NM6176 6 Specialist Practice Learning Skills Portfolio 10 Comp
NM6178 6 Public Health Prevention, Promotion and Protection 20 Comp
NM6179 6 Research and Ethical Practice 20 Comp
NM6180 6 Theories of Equality, Diversity and Safeguarding 20 Comp
NM6184 6 Specialist Practice Community (Mental Health Nursing) 20 Comp
NM6189 6 Work Related Professional Skills 10 Optional

120 level 6 credits must be achieved by the end of the taught programme. 360 credits, including 240 credits at levels4 and5 (from previous study) plus120 credits at level6 from this top-up programme, entitle the student to a Graduate Diploma degree.

The admission criteria for student entry to the Graduate Diploma Specialist Practice Community Mental Health Nursing programme will normally be:

  • Registration on the appropriate part of the NMC register for their chosen pathway.
  • 120 credits at level 5 or equivalent.
  • Normally a minimum of two years' post-registration experience. *
  • Normally successfully completed a level 6 mentorship module.
  • A period of community experience.
  • Support from the sponsoring trust.

* Candidates who do not possess the full two years of experience in the specialist area may exceptionally be admitted to the programme using the following criteria, all of which must be met:

  • Support from sponsoring trust.
  • Evidence of practice in a closely related area of specialism.

Nursing and Midwifery (NMC) Specialist Practitioner Qualification (SPQ) competencies, Skills for Health. 

Nature and extent of programme:

This programme seeks to provide nurses working in the community setting with a strategy for lifelong learning, which enables them to attain an award of Specialist Practice in Mental Health Nursing. It is one that sees a strong integration between theory and practice, with practice as the main focus and measure of the role and quality of the Specialist Practitioner. Theory is seen as providing not only the foundation for practice, but also contributing to the generation of practice initiatives. It will also promote the extension of professional roles and therefore the development of a critically reflective and responsive practitioner. 

The curriculum philosophy is a response to a number of professional and government initiatives (Department of Health, 2011; 2010;  QNI, 2009; 2011 ), which have a direct effect on the way professional education should be organised and provided. Specialist Practitioners are defined as leaders within their own clinical area who are able to exercise higher levels of judgement and discretion (NMC, 2001). They are expected to supervise and encourage development within others through motivating and supporting change, and by creating an environment in which practice development is fostered, evaluated and disseminated within the appropriate ethical and legal frameworks. 

The programme aims to provide a student-centred, interdisciplinary, dynamic and quality educational experience that will be instrumental in changing and developing nursing practice, and in producing practitioners who will be leaders of their profession.

Department of Health (2011) No Health Without Mental Health: A Cross-Government Mental Health Outcomes Strategy for People of All Ages : From Accessed 21st January 2013

Department of Health (2010) Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS: Accessed 17th January 2013 

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2001) Standards for specialist education and practice. Retrieved 18th January 2013 from:

Queens Nursing Institute (2009) 20/20 Vision QNI, London 

Students will experience a variety of teaching and learning methods designed to facilitate the achievement of all learning outcomes within a student-centred approach, and to foster personal and professional development. The predominant method of teaching and learning will be by distance learning faciliated electronically via the University of Chester intranet site.  Each module has a dedicated space which is primed with a range of subject specific and generic public health and social care resources to enhance learning including: access to the electronic library, electronic journals, directed learning materials created by the module leaders and synchronus and asynchronous learning exercises, podcasts and video streaming.

At key points within the programme there will be face to face sessions with module leaders who will then utilise a mix of teaching methods, which take account of the subject matter, the student group size, the students’ previous experience and the resources available. Methods of learning and teaching will include formal lectures, scenario-based learning sessions, problem-based learning, tutorials, seminars, presentations and debates, reflection, practice-based workshops, learning through practice, directed study, private study sessions, all supported through e-learning packages. Self directed, inter professional learning and peer learning are methods used.

The student experience will be enhanced by the use of critical reflection. A number of modules are assessed using real scenarios generated from the practice setting which facilitate the integration of theory and practice, thus promoting the development of critical decision-making and problem-solving skills. This will encourage the development of lifelong learning which builds to form a practice learning portfolio for the programme. The practice learning portfolio will focus on the further development of the students’ reflective skills, with a specific section devoted to reflection on learning in and on practice. Students will thus be placed at the centre of the learning experience and are expected to assume responsibility for their own educational development. 

Problem-based learning is included as a teaching and learning strategy within the programme. The approach adopted within the Faculty of Health and Social Care is termed ’scenario-generated learning’ and this will be used as a strategy for learning and teaching within the programme. The future aim is for all modules to be taught as a mixed mode, where students have access to learning materials through e-learning in varying proportions from fully taught with supporting materials to full use of electronic materials with minimal taught content.

Methods of learning and teaching will emphasise student-centred techniques. This will facilitate the student to become an autonomous learner, able to identify their own learning needs and goals within the parameters of the programme aims and outcomes, which will require the student to actively identify and engage with specific learning outcomes pertinent to their area of community practice. The student will also be expected to identify and negotiate acceptable methods of evidencing the achievement of the learning outcomes.

Inter-professional learning is a key feature within the programme, and it is recognised that this may present challenges to teaching staff to ensure that the needs of learners from all community disciplines are met. Shared learning across a range of modules is however actively encouraged, with 'breakout' workshops to ensure that the specific application to the professional pathway is maintained. Examples and scenarios are drawn from a range of professional areas to ensure application to specialist practice.  Visiting lecturers and nationally recognised expert professionals are invited to participate in a number of themed sessions within the programme, in order to provide contemporary perspectives within practice.  

Mentors/ Practice Teachers will undertake student assessment in practice, with support from the lecturing staff of the Faculty. A designated SPC Mentor/ Practice Teacher will be allocated to each student and will assess the student’s progress and competence within a structured framework including a mid-way progress report and collaboration with other clinical staff and user feedback. The student has the responsibility of completing their Practice Learning Skills Portfolio with the assessor, taking an active role in setting up progress meetings and working alongside the Mentor/ Practice Teacher to ensure the assessment of practice is possible.

A designated Skills Week has been timetabled into the programme to allow students to practice learn in a supported environment with pathway specific clinical skills (Module 'Specialist Practice Learning Skills Portfolio') .

Students will be exposed to a variety of assessment methods designed to ensure that the content, outcomes and level of the modules are measured in a fair and transparent manner. Examples include assignments, seminar presentations, individual case studies and reflective accounts. Knowledge and understanding will be tested through written assignments, seminar presentations and individual case studies. Intellectual skills will be assessed normally through course work assignments, and students will be asked to demonstrate thinking and cognitive ability through written assignments, seminar presentations, individual case studies and reflective accounts. All aspects of the assessment strategy will be used to evaluate transferable/key skills and, where relevant, mapped against national benchmarks.

All written assignments will be submitted electronically in line with the University's teaching and learning strategy.

The practice element of the course will be assessed by the practice learning skills portfolio, individual case study, user feedback, seminar presentations, reflective accounts, oral examination, and direct observation by lecturers, colleagues and peers. 

All aspects of the assessment strategy will be used to evaluate transferable/key skills and, where relevant, mapped against national standards.

The programme offers students the opportunity to achieve the characteristics of a graduate, and it is assessment criteria based upon QAA (2008) and University of Chester documents which define these characteristics (see below).

Demonstrate reasoning with regard to complex issues, which shows an ability to explore and develop alternative solutions.

Apply the methods, techniques and modes of practice that they have learned and review, consolidate, extend and apply their knowledge and understanding.

Theory/practice link
Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of relevant knowledge and applicable techniques enabling them to take initiatives and accept significant responsibility within organisations.

Demonstrate critical analysis and be able to deal with complex issues.

Consider abstract data, concepts and/or raw materials and frame appropriate questions to achieve a solution - or identify a range of solutions to a problem.

Evaluating evidence and argument
Ability to deploy accurately established techniques of analysis and enquiry.

Reaching sound judgements
Ability to critically evaluate current research, methodology and scholarship.

Ability to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions, in a variety of formats appropriate to both specialist and non-specialist audiences. The graduate will have developed skills associated with professional practice within their chosen community role. Knowledge and skills learnt through the core modules will be enhanced in option modules and culminate in the dissertation module which will underpin the application of theory to practice. They will be able to demonstrate appropriate levels of decision making, and to monitor and improve standards of service delivery, within their chosen community setting. On completion, these graduates will be equipped to deliver the highest quality evidence-based community practice appropriate to their work-based setting.   

The graduate will have developed skills associated with professional practice within district nursing practice. They will be able to demonstrate appropriate levels of decision making, and to monitor and improve standards of service delivery, within their chosen community setting.

Graduates will engage with the four areas of specialist practice:

  1. Clinical practice.
  2. Care and programme management.
  3. Clinical practice development.
  4. Clinical practice leadership.

Graduates who complete this programme will have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of district nursing and will be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to practise as a specialist mental health nurse. They will be able to assess needs of individuals, groups and populations within their practice. They will also be able to plan, re-design, implement and evaluate interventions to meet the needs of individuals and client groups. Graduates will also have gained an in-depth understanding of inter-professional and inter-agency working, in addition to partnership working with those who live with a long term condition.

The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.

Please note that despite what is indicated in section 16 of this programme specification, the Graduate Diploma Specialist Practice Community Mental Health Nursing programme must be completed within three years to meet NMC requirements         (2001).

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