Work on proposals and a consultation for another increase in the annual registration fee is continuing, despite early objections from nurses, according to the Department of Health.
The DH revealed the information in a written response to a petition set up to oppose any further rise in the registration fee by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
In January, the regulator warned it was expecting to end the current financial year with a deficit of £7.3m, which it stated “was unsustainable in future years without a fee rise”.
It is due to formally review the current fee structure at its council meeting later this month, where it is expected to push for an increase in the fee from £100 to £120. Any such decision would then have to be consulted on with stakeholders, including registrants, before it could be introduced.
The NMC also attempted to raise the fee to £120 two years ago, but eventually settled for £100, after the government agreed to give it a £20m grant.
Unions have rejected another fee rise so soon after the last one came into force 12 months ago. A petition was also started in February on the government’s website by mental health nurse Stephen Iwasyk.
It has already attracted 68,547 signatures, meaning the petition is over halfway towards the 100,000 it needs to be considered for debate by MPs. The DH has already issued a written response to the petition – as required by government rules – because it has received more than 10,000 signatures.
The DH said it was “aware that on 26 March, the NMC council is scheduled to carry out its annual registration fee review” and in advance had taken the view that an increase was potentially necessary for 2015-16 onwards to “bridge a funding gap between income and expenditure”.
“As of February, the NMC reports that further work to develop proposals and a consultation document is currently underway,” it stated.
The DH added: “The department is aware that the level of the NMC annual registration is of key importance to its registrants, particularly within the current context of pay restraint and financial austerity. If, in due course, the NMC council does propose a fee increase, this will be subject to consultation where the NMC’s case would be scrutinised.”