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At the end of last month Nancy Kirkland was appointed the new president of the NMC. Emma Vere-Jones talks to her about the huge rise in registration fees and the challenges that face the regulatory body

The recent rise in the fee

from £43 to £76 has been controversial. How would you justify the increase and can you assure nurses there won't be a similar rise in future?

I can't give any assurance on future rises and fees. What I can give is an assurance that fees are spent in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

We need to look at how we engage with registrants so they can see how we spend money, not only on protecting the public but to benefit nurses, too. We must also ask NMC members where the money should go.

The NMC is due to launch

a major consultation on pre-registration training. Do you think we will ever see nursing move to an all-graduate profession?

That I don't know. We've been trying to encourage people to engage in the consultation process. If people feel it has

to be a degree profession,

then they need to reflect that

in consultation - as do those who take the opposite view.

It's all about the requirements of patients out there. I have

my own personal views on

this but I'm not really keen

to share them.

What would you say to nurses who might argue that your lack of recent clinical roles means you're not in touch with those nursing on the front line?

I've always been close to

the grassroots. Practice development, quality assurance, clinical development - all those roles meant I needed to get

out and meet clinicians.

I don't have the answers to everything, I ask staff to provide me with information and then

I support them to help shape their practice.

So while I may not have

had my hands on a patient for some considerable time, I've been there for nurses to help them through training and education so they can make their practice fit the needs of the changing environment.

People who know me know that I'm a people person. I've always made a point of being there and people have always been able to pick up the phone to talk to me.

In a recent interview Harry Cayton, chief executive of

the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, said he thought all regulators would lose their role running fitness to practise panels. Do you think the NMC might lose its adjudication role?

It all really comes down to the public having trust in us. We took the decision that in terms of protecting the public, we would separate the adjudication and corporate roles.

We believe that this gives

the public assurance that we are going to safeguard their needs rather than just protect the profession.

I think this will work extremely well and we have a very robust system in place to make sure there's both protection of the public and protection of the registrant. Where we will end

up in the future, I couldn't say.

How do you think the

public perceives nurses

and the NMC?

I think the profession is now

and always has been held in high regard. I don't think people understand the NMC in the same way they understand the GMC but we haven't hit the headlines in such a negative way. Certainly I think there's an opportunity for us to look again at how we can raise our profile.

I'm keen as president to look at engaging in a more positive way as opposed to reacting to negative press. So let's start with the good news stories

to raise the profile of both the profession and regulatory body.

What are the biggest challenges the NMC faces

in the next two years?

I think the most obvious

ones will be the white paper [Trust, Assurance and Safety - The Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century] and what we're

going to look like in the future - for example the size and composition of the council.

The other challenge is for the workforce environment to reflect Modernising Nursing Careers.

I think MNC has come out at the right time but [adopting it] will be a challenge.

We can't just conjure up the nurses, midwives and specialist community public health nurses for the future.

It's about being proactive in terms of meeting the demands of the nursing workforce.

It's concerned with how we embrace change and shape the profession of the future, which is why we're keen to engage with members.

What other goals do you have as president of the NMC?

I want to have the NMC in

a strong position to meet changing regulatory demands, not only in the UK but also internationally.

We're doing a lot of work with FEPI [the European Federation of Nursing Regulators] on the impact of the new professional qualifications directive and it's about steering that and making sure we continue on the road of public protection.

I'd like to see at the end of

my time that we'd moved a distance to looking at changing roles within the profession

and how they meet the needs

of the public.

I would also hope that as

the largest regulatory body

in the UK and Europe we will have strong input in shaping future regulation.

Do you miss the clinical

side of nursing?

Yes, when I go around the wards or if I'm visiting relatives in hospitals, I'm observing all the time, looking at equipment and checking the drips.

But I like to think that I can do good for the profession in this role. It's important as nurses, midwives and specialist community public health

nurses that we're in strong leadership roles and I'm happy to be part of changing and shaping the profession. 

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