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Trust threatens to dock nurse pay over lapsed registrations

A London mental health trust that may have uncovered a potential legal minefield over lapsed registrations has warned its nurses that they could in future have their pay docked if they fail to renew their registration on time.

As part of a new drive to improve the quality of its nursing, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust recently introduced a monthly nurse registration monitoring system. This may have revealed a common – but seemingly unaddressed – problem in nursing that may mean hundreds if not thousands of nurses up and down the country are practising illegally at any one time.

The trust’s chief executive, Claire Murdoch, herself a qualified mental health nurse, said the trust’s new system was identifying up to eight nurses a month who had failed to ensure that they were still registered with the NMC. It is illegal for nurses to continue practising without up-to-date registration.

She told Nursing Times that in future any nurse who had allowed their registration to lapse would be paid at the level of a healthcare assistant and would face demotion in terms of duties and tasks.

‘If nurses don’t keep up their registration they can leave themselves and their organisation vulnerable, this is about protecting patients and the status of the profession,’ she said.

RCN policy adviser Howard Catton said that NHS trusts needed to aware of the implications if a nurse was not registered and made an error in practice.

‘If a nurse fouls up and that leads to a negligence claim, and it transpires that the nurse was not registered, that is a significant issue for the trust. Trusts do need to have a system in place to monitor up-to-date registration,’ he said.

Nursing Times understands that nurses failing to re-register on time is a problem throughout the NHS.

Janice Sigsworth, director of nursing at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, admitted that at any one time the trust had a ‘handful’ of nurses whose registration had lapsed.

‘We have a system of monitoring so that if they have not re-registered our system generates an alert, which our senior nurses will then follow up. If we find that a nurse who has not re-registered is still practising then they will stop and work as a non-registered nurse below band 5,’ she said.

However, Ms Sigsworth said that if a nurse had let her registration lapse because of ‘exceptional circumstances’ they would be ‘shown some leniency’. ‘Nurse managers need to take this issue seriously and individual nurses themselves need to be accountable,’ she added.

An NMC spokesperson said that all nurses were sent a ‘renewal pack’ 45 days before their re-registration was due as well as two further reminders.

‘On the day their registration expires they should not be practising but there is a three-month window within which they can re-register, after that they have to go though the validation process again,’ he said.

He added that nurses who continued to practise when they were no longer registered could ‘technically’ be subject to disciplinary proceedings.

Director of nursing at Unison Gail Adams said that she was ‘sympathetic’ to trusts who decided to dock nurses’ pay if they had not re-registered.

‘Nurses have a duty to maintain their professionalism and if they let their NMC registration lapse they are technically not a nurse. We as nurses have to take responsibility for ourselves, we would not let our car insurance slip so why our professional registration?’ she said.

‘I would say ignore it at your peril, nurses do need to be vigilant and organised about their registration,’ she added.

Readers' comments (12)

  • This discovery says a lot for health service management over the last 30 years.

    Perhaps MP's and others should be asking why this, and other trust who do not have a system, are not monitoring re-registration of nurses?

    As an ex RCN Ofiicer we were dealing with such issues back in the 1980's so it is not something that has just recently occured.

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  • I am presently enduring the wrath of the trust i work for due to forgetting to re-register with the NMC. Facing a disciplinary for gross misconduct. In fact i have been told they could in fact terminate my employment. Presently has been no system in place to ensure nurses have re-registered with the NMC therefore the pressure lies upon the individual themselves. Exceptional circumstances: Physically and emotionally raped to exhaustion due to work duties and being under-staffed thus having no time for such things as renewing registration or having a life outside of the hospital walls..
    I understand and agree that a nurse is accountable and responsible for the up-keep of their PIN but feel that trusts or similar should ensure there is a system in place to ensue this as many nurses working in busy units really do not get time for much else outside of work.

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  • I fully support unison's position on this matter.I would go much further. I believe there are no circumstances under which a person who is not registered should be allowed to practice. Again, it is a minority of individuals trying to buck the system, and taking the mickey out of all those hard working nurses doing a great job under difficult circumstances I know personaly of individuals re-registering and freely admitting that they have done nothing to maintain their skills. My message to all trusts is to root out these people and summarily dismiss them.If they are unable for whatever reason, or cannot be bothered to maintain their practice to the required standard, ask yourself the question,'Would you want these people looking after you or a loved one?

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  • I believe that there should be no excuse in not re registering. Nursing is a profession and we should all be proud of it and take more responsibility. You do not forget to register to practice.

    However, it would helpful if ward managers have a system in place that reminds staff that their registrations is due to expire.

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  • How easy does it have to be to re register? The form arrives you tick the boxes and sign the cheque. Put it in the post and away you go. I can't think of many valid reasons to forget to do this.

    Being able to afford it, well yes that I can almost understand. Even so with a 45 days reminder in use. It does give you some time to get the money together.

    To busy to sort it out due to work, I find that difficult to understand. Are you also to busy to wash and feed yourself? No I didn't think so.

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  • At our trust all registrations are checked by a designated admin officer whio has alist of all registered staff their registration date and checkes on the nmc website every month every nurse has reregistered if the registration has lapsed the trained nurse is instantly given unqualified duties to preform and payed as a unqualified nurse untill it has been confirmed on the NMC website they are registered

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  • Unfortunately i recently forgot to re-register. I received my 45 day reminder and placed it in the cupboard to pay the following payday. That day came and went and i forgot about the letter in the cupboard. My trust reminded me 5 days later and paid my registration the same day. It was a general error on my part, it has never happened before and it will not again. I have since set up a direct debit, however for others who also pay by this method please be aware that if you do not complete the form about your CPD then your registration remains invalid, even though payment has been made, also check on the website. I was glad but highly embarressed that my trust reminded me. However our trust sends us text messages reminding us of our training sessions, therefore it has been suggested that they also do this about our registration approx 1 week before it is due. Maybe it is a poor excuse but for many cases lack of registration is possibly a genuine oversight as the letter goes in the cupboard awaiting payday.

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  • I agree that 'forgetting' is not an excuse for a professional to make. Most nurses lead extremely busy and demanding lives but payment is not made easy by NMC who will not accept electronic bank to bank transfers allowing individuals to pay automatically. An alternative would be for payment to be made directly from pay by employer then that would provide the safety for them that unregistered staff would not be working.

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  • i have found over the last few years the NMC have made payment harder and harder as well as increasingly expensive. i accept the individual should be responsible but resent my 'professional body' making life so difficult

    also to remind anonymous the direct debit is time limited so in fact the traps set by our marvellous fence sitting 'professional body' are subtle and multiple.

    i do wonder how many of them remember what life as a nurse is like, their 'help' (LOL) pages indicate they believe nurses dont like a clear answer to a problem and are stupid enough to accept this feeble guff.

    sadly we have no alternative to them at present and no obvious form of influence apart from being career manager lites and joining their gang?

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  • I recently informed my Trust of 2 senior staff (both band 8) who were not registered, to be told that it was not relevant, that the Trust was not interested in whether or not staff were registered!

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  • A colleague of mine from north Glasgow was recently dismissed for not renewing his NMC registration. He was mentally ill and undergoing treatment but this was not taken into account, he was just dismissed, a band 7 who had worked in the NHS for over 20 years. Do we have so many good nurses that we are disposable now? This is not a cut and dry issue, there are lots of variables e.g. does being on the register confirm professional behaviour? I think the volume of NMC hearings will suggest that professional behaviour is more than a piece of paper, and all elements of professional behaviour should be considered before someone is dismissed and ruined. On a positive note since being dismissed his health has improved dramatically he now works in a call centre, still scarred and wounded but not missing the environment that made him unwell.

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  • Borrocks.

    Nice to see rampant authoritarianism, guilt and charges of unprofessionalism for not sending off a cheque to the NMC. Florence would be right proud. It's 2010 not 1810. Grow up.

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