Nurses will have to wait for some time before they see their title protected, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
The NMC has been urged to set out how only registered nurses can call themselves “nurse” by the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England. But NMC chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes said such a move would almost certainly require legislation, which is likely to slow down the process.
Professor Weir-Hughes said that in terms of protecting the public, stripping other workers of the right to call themselves nurses “was probably the right thing to do”, and he said the NMC was taking legal advice, and would liaise with the Department of Health, over the mechanism to protect nurse as a title.
“As regulators we have to take what is the right decision for the majority of people,” he said.
“Occasionally that means a small number of people are disadvantaged”.
The PM’s Commission also called on the NMC to regulate specialist and advanced practice nurses.
Professor Weir-Hughes said a working group would be set up immediately, and he hoped it would report “in months rather than years”.
Professor Weir-Hughes said the NMC would have to wait to be asked to take forward the work it has already begun on the regulation or licensing of healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners.
But he argued that the NMC was best-placed to take on this responsibility.
“Many nurses and midwives believe very strongly that if they are delegating to HCAs, who are now carrying out some quite significant roles, then registration should be part of the nursing and midwifery family,” he said.
Professor Weir-Hughes said the nursing pledge set out in the Commission’s report would always remain secondary to the NMC’s code.
The code applies to all nurses and midwives, not just those working in the NHS, and it would be considered when complaints are made.
But Professor Weir-Hughes said he was in favour of the new pledge, which would provide “additional supportive guidance” for nurses and midwives in the NHS.