A petition calling on the government to review the process the Nursing and Midwifery Council uses to decide its annual registration fee has reached a major milestone.
The online petition has now been signed by 100,000 people, meaning that under the government’s rules it must be considered as a potential topic for debate by MPs in the Commons.
Its creation was sparked by a warning from the NMC in January that its financial situation will be “unsustainable” in future without a further rise in the annual registration fee.
Last month, the regulator’s leaders subsequently agreed to go ahead with a consultation on a possible registration fee increase, from £100 to £120, less than two years since the last rise.
The consultation will run from May to July, with the NMC council considering the outcome in October. If agreed, the regulator would then seek to introduce the fee rise from February 2015.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council
The petition was started earlier this year by Stephen Iwasyk, a mental health liaison nurse at Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation Trust.
It states: “We would like the government to review the NMC with regard to the fees charged to registered nurses and midwives, and the processes through which those fees are decided.
“The fees were increased two years ago from £76 to £100, following a consultation that was overwhelmingly against the rise.”
The petition passed the halfway point to its target total in February, less than a week after it was set up on the government’s website. However, since then, progress has been more slow-going.
Mr Iwasyk set up a similar petition in 2012 when the regulator attempted to increase the annual registration fee from £76 to £120. It gained 75,769 signatures.
On that occasion, following a £20m grant from the government, the NMC relented and opted instead to up the fee to £100 in February 2013 for two years. However, the NMC’s financial strategy for the period 2012-16 allows for it to revisit an increase to £120 from March 2015.
The Royal College of Nursing and Unison have both strongly condemned any increase in registration fee.
The NMC noted that the petition had reached 100,000 signatures but said its financial assumptions remained the same.
A spokeswoman said: “When we consulted on the registration fee in 2012, we made it clear that we needed a fee of £120 per registrant, based on our financial assumptions at the time. Nothing has changed since then… which is why we are about to consult on increasing the fee by £20.
“Nurses and midwives are not alone in paying a registration fee,” she said. “Fees for other healthcare profession regulators range from between £160 for two years to over £700 annually.”