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Health declaration is ‘pointless’

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The need for nurses to declare they are in ‘good health’ to maintain their registration could be scrapped.

The declaration is ‘pointless and discriminatory’, said the majority of nurses who were asked their opinion on removing health standards as a registration requirement during the second of six NMC equality and diversity workshops, held in London last week.

Currently, all nurses must declare they are mentally and physically fit to work to stay on the register.

But, in a feedback session at the workshop, one nurse said: ‘We don’t see what the value of it is in the first place. You can declare good health but that might change and who is to say that person will go on to disclose that?’

‘You want people to be safe nurses but we are not sure if declaring that [health standards] is what makes them safe,’ said another attendee.

‘I think you can be in ill health and still be capable of safe practice.’

She added: ‘People may not want to disclose their health through fear of being discriminated against.’

The views support the conclusions of a formal investigation by the Disability Rights Commission in 2007, which concluded that the standards – a government requirement – do not protect the public and discouraged people with disabilities from becoming nurses.

The NMC cannot make changes to the requirements of registration. However, it will take the views gathered during the workshops to a meeting with the Department of Health and the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence in June.

It will use the evidence to persuade the government to consider reviewing or scrapping the standards.

Natalie Salmon, NMC head of equality and diversity, said: ‘We’ve met with about 100 nurses and midwives so far and no one has raised major objections.

‘Their concerns are about putting safeguards in place to ensure patient safety but they are saying they would like things to be updated
and we will look at how this can happen.’

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