The Department of Health looks increasingly unlikely to intervene on behalf of registrants over the unpopular proposals to increase the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s fee by 58%.
NMC interim chief executive Jackie Smith revealed on Monday that “no one” at the DH had “sought to challenge” the unpopular idea, announced in May.
Unions, including the Royal College of Nursing and Unison, had called on the government to step in and bail out the financially challenged regulator, which wants to increase the registration fee from £76 to £120 from January in order to continue funding its core fitness to practise functions.
The NMC is currently holding a consultation on the proposals, which have also been shown to ministers.
Ms Smith was speaking at a press conference yesterday, which was held to discuss a highly critical report into the NMC by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.
She confirmed that NMC had not requested any financial support from the government and that a fee increase for registrants was the “only deal on the table”, following a comment from RCN head of policy Howard Catton, questioning whether the NMC had reached the right figure for the fee to cover the increasing Fitness to Practise costs.
She said: “We absolutely know that £120 is very significant in a really difficult time but there is no point in us saying actually, ‘we can manage with a hundred quid’, knowing that in a year’s time we’d have to come back and say actually it’s £120.
“We have to have the courage and responsibility to say this is what we need. We know how unpopular it is, but we have put out the business case to the department and no one has sought to challenge it,” she said.
In response, Unison head of nursing Gail Adams told Ms Smith: “There’s no other way than to be blunt in how I think registrants will see it. You are asking the registrants to bail out the NMC in the same way that the public was asked to bail out the banks.”
In an official statement put out later by the union, Ms Adams continued: “Public protection is everyone’s business and we fail to see why nurses and midwives should have to bail the NMC out of a financial crisis of its own creation.
“We call on the government to meet with the trade unions urgently to intervene. It is time for them to step in and stop hard working nurses and midwives taking yet another undeserved hit on their already dwindling incomes.”
In the RCN’s official response to the CHRE’s report into the NMC, chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter, said: “There is great concern among nurses that they are currently being faced with a near 60% hike in NMC fees at a time when many nurses are struggling financially.
“This is a huge increase and could not have come at a worse time, with nurses in the midst of a two year pay freeze and facing worrying increases to their pension contributions. It seems very unfair to expect registered nurses to solely pick up the costs of the regulator’s financial failings.”