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Error leaves nurses unregulated

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Thousands of nurses have been illegally practising without their knowledge, because of an NMC blunder over registrations, NT has learnt.

Thousands of nurses have been illegally practising without their knowledge, because of an NMC blunder over registrations, NT has learnt.

Around 3,500 specialist community public health nurses (SCPHNs) have not been legitimately registered for two years because they are listed on only the third part of the regulator’s register.

The NMC council voted in 2005 to allow SCPHNs solely to join the third part of the register.

But the Department of Health has warned the NMC that, by law, it can only regulate nurses and midwives and, therefore, SCPHNs must also appear on the first or second part of the register to be covered.

If a SCPHN is not on these sections of the register the NMC has no jurisdiction to register them, charge them fees or carry out fitness to practise investigations or hearings, the department told NT in a statement.

Moreover, SCPHNs can only legally prescribe if they are registered on part one or two of the register, meaning many SCPHNs will have been prescribing illegally, it added.

The DH claims it told the NMC this in 2005 but only became aware of the NMC’s decision to go ahead with the move earlier this year, telling the council it must reverse it as it was legally unsound.

The NMC council is due to vote on reversing the decision later this week. Last week an NMC spokesperson was unable to provide guidance for nurses affected by the issue.

‘Following advice from the Department of Health, the NMC has reconsidered the decision taken by council in December 2005, to allow SCPHNs to renew their registration in the third part of the register without renewing their nursing or midwifery registration,’ she said.

But Gail Adams, Unison’s head of nursing, said: ‘The NMC must issue urgent advice to reassure those who are only on the third part of the register.

‘We are concerned about the impact this will have on our members who are on the third part of the register and this needs urgent discussion,’ she added. ‘I find it alarming that neither the Department of Health or the NMC have picked up on this until now.’

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