The government has offered a £20m grant to the Nursing and Midwifery Council in a bid to reduce the size of the proposed fee hike.
The regulator’s unpopular proposal to increase the annual registration fee by 58%, from £76 to £120, was unveiled in May. It says it needs the increase to raise funds to cope with its existing queue of fitness to practise cases and an anticipated increase in future referrals.
The fee rise is expected to raise an additional £29m for the regulator. Therefore, even with the £20m from the government, it is likely the NMC would still want some level of fee increase to balance the books.
Nursing Times understands the Department of Health hopes its intervention could see the fee rise lowed to around £100.
An NMC spokeswoman said the regulator would decide whether to accept the grant at its next council meeting on 25 October, when a final decision on whether to go ahead with the fee rise is also expected to be taken.
“We welcome the government’s offer of a grant to give us further options to contribute to the costs of regulating nurses and midwives,” she added.
However, the regulator has previously ignored two requests from the government to commission an external audit of the business case for the fee rise.
Announcing the grant today, new nursing minister Dan Poulter said he hoped the cash would help the regulator “get back on its feet”, operationally and financially.
“It is important that organisations like the NMC are in the right shape to properly perform their job of protecting patients,” he said.
“I am also mindful that in these times of pay restraint, it is not right that hard working nurses and midwives are burdened with the full financial cost of improving the NMC’s fitness to practise function.”
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “The Department of Health’s offer is to be welcomed and is something we have been calling for. It is clear that the NMC has been facing a number of significant challenges for some time and we would urge the NMC council to accept the offer as soon as possible.”
He added: “We believe that the proposed independent audit of the financial basis and assumptions behind the proposed increase still needs to be carried out swiftly, and its recommendations taken on board. This is essential for nurses and midwives to have confidence in the NMC as their regulator.”
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “The government grant will come as a welcome relief to nurses and midwives who simply cannot afford to pay the massive 58% increase in registration fees that the NMC is proposing. The council must use this grant to keep registration fees down and help nurses who have had their pay frozen for two years and are now struggling just to make ends meet.
“The grant is a unique opportunity to rebuild public confidence in the NMC as an organisation and, more importantly, to regain the trust and respect of registrants.”