The NMC has admitted it does not know how many migrant workers have secured frontline health service jobs after lying about their identity, experience or qualifications.
With an internal investigation into its own failings now underway at the NMC, a recruitment freeze is in place leaving around 160 nurses unable to fill vacancies in understaffed NHS units.
The regulator’s admission that it is in the dark about the scale of the problem comes just a week after it was heavily criticised by MPs.
Significant concerns have been aired about patient safety and whether the watchdog in its current form is fit for purpose.
Fears over potentially fraudulent applications emerged during an internal review at the NMC that was launched last month.
The NMC says it has not yet discovered any documents that are confirmed to be fraudulent but, likewise, it is also unable to confirm that no false applications have been made.
As a spokeswoman said, the documents in question in some cases do not constitute proof of fraud but the information also “does not give us the level of confidence we would want”.
NMC officials expressed concerns during the internal review about whether certain documents could be verified as genuine and, in some instances, whether the translations into English were reliable.
The RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter has called for an explanation, pointing out that the NMC’s main role is to protect the public and “it would seem that it is having problems doing this”.
He added: “We are naturally concerned that the NMC has felt a need to stop registering foreign nurses. They are an important addition to the NHS, but public protection is the most important issue.”