The NMC has no powers to automatically re-register retired nurses in the event of an escalation of the swine flu pandemic.
Retired nurses would need to complete a return to practice course, lasting at least five days, before they could be used for full nursing duties.
The NHS could only use retired nurses whose registration had lapsed in support roles in the event of an escalation of the swine flu pandemic, according to the NMC.
The regulator has sought to clarify its position on the issue following revelations that trusts have already begun contacting recently retired staff in case they are needed to fill gaps in the event of the swine flu pandemic getting worse – potentially in the autumn.
In a statement, the NMC said: ‘If a nurse or midwife is unregistered, they cannot work as a registered nurse or midwife but can be utilised in a supportive capacity.
‘If a registered nurse or midwife is retired and not on the register, to work as a registered nurse or midwife they would need to complete a return to practice course. Should a nurse or midwife not wish to complete a Return to Practice course, they can work in a supportive capacity,’ said the NMC.
This differs from the medical regulator, the General Medical Council, which has been granted special powers to automatically re-register retired doctors without a course being necessary.
‘Unlike the GMC, who were given additional powers to re-register retired doctors in 2008, the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001 does not allow us to bring retired nurses or midwives back on to the register in the event of a pandemic,’ the NMC said.