As if there isn’t enough doom and gloom in nursing - care scandals, pay cuts leading to the first strike in over 30 years next week, cuts to services, workplace stress and the pressure of targets all join forces to make nurses feel undervalued and dejected.
And now another Nursing and Midwifery Council fee rise has just been confirmed (see page 2).
There is a real concern the fee rise could deter nurses close to retirement from continuing to stay on the register. Though the NMC predicts this won’t be the case, it has promised to keep an eye on it.
When most trusts are struggling to fill their nursing posts to provide safe care, and are having to scramble to recruit from abroad, this is a genuine concern for patients as well as the profession.
In February last year, the fee went up from £76 to £100, and from March next year, it will be £120. It’s not surprising registrants are reeling. It seems unfair because it is unfair. And however much the NMC justifies the rise by explaining the costly nature of its old-fashioned and time-consuming processes, which it is bound to by law, it doesn’t help nurses feel any less sore about forking out more money when the government is deciding to pay them less than ever.
Of course, had the government agreed to consider the Law Commission draft bill on healthcare regulation in the present parliament, we would probably have seen a slicker and more efficient process of regulation emerge from NMC towers. Instead, it continues to have a clunky, labour-intensive and expensive set of fitness to practise cases that absorb most of the fees.
The government ordered a strategic review of the NMC after the Francis report was published, but it criticised and then fled from the scene, without helping to find the solution. It could have eased the load on nurses by agreeing to consider the Law Commission’s draft bill, which would have modernised the costly way fitness to practise cases are carried out, and eased the burden on healthcare regulators by enabling them to share certain functions. But it didn’t.
If you read the list of bills this parliament is considering in its last year in office you get a good indication of where nurses come in the government’s pecking order. Somewhere below cats and wild animals in circuses. I am an animal lover, but I also know that nurses need support. If this government wants to keep them - and their votes - they should have made a priority of ensuring they stay motivated - in fact made a priority of ensuring they stay at all.
Jenni Middleton, editor
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