‘Nurses and midwives practising without registration are taking a significant legal risk, being on the register is key to enabling high standards of care’ says Dickon Weir-Hughes
As I was going through my post the other day, along with the usual invitations to annual conferences, there was a letter from a nurse. The correspondent, apparently a nurse of some 15 years’ experience, has recently received a registration renewal letter from us. She is writing to protest about the annual £76 fee. “Why must I pay to work?” she asks, filling the remaining pages of her letter questioning what is in it for her.
Fortunately, very few nurses and midwives seem to view their Nursing and Midwifery Council registration as a sort of tax on their chosen career. Most practising nurses and midwives are proud to be registered and understand the importance of registration to public protection.
Aside from it being illegal to practise without registration, being on the NMC’s register is key to enabling us to maintain high standards of care.
It is also:
- The reason why the public trust you to take care of them when they are at their most vulnerable;
- Recognition of your professional qualification;
- Something that unites all nurses and midwives, empowering you to be an advocate for your patients, clients and the community.
The vast majority of nurses and midwives work to the high standards we set and deliver excellent care. However, there are those, wilfully or otherwise, who fall short of the attitude, knowledge and skills required to practise safely. They put not only the reputation of the whole profession but also the safety of patients on the line. This group is small - the number of people referred to us accounts for less than 1% of those registered by the NMC.
These individuals will be working with other nurses or midwives in some capacity, such as being on the same shift or through supervision. I’ve no doubt, from my own experience working on wards, that nurses and midwives may at some point have serious concerns about the care being provided by a colleague.
It is in the interest of every nurse and midwife to ensure the integrity of the register. One of the ways this is done is by weeding out those unsuited to share the title of registered nurse or midwife. The NMC code makes this clear and the guidance on raising and escalating concerns that we sent you supports you when speaking with your employer. Our fitness to practise processes exist to protect the public.
The other way of ensuring the integrity of the register is by making sure your registration does not lapse. It is a criminal offence to falsely represent yourself as a registered nurse or midwife. Nurses and midwives practising without registration are taking a significant legal risk.
I have written to every nursing director about the issue of lapsed registration, reminding them of their responsibility to ensure that their nurses and midwives possess an effective NMC registration at all times. But while employers have a clear duty to regularly check the registration status of their nursing and midwifery staff, it is the individual responsibility of every nurse and midwife to maintain registration.
I, for one, am proud to be on the register. I also hope that those who are less enthusiastic but who read this find their own reasons to value their registration. I would encourage all nurses and midwives to tell the people in your care that you are registered with the NMC, leaving them safe in the knowledge that the care they receive is of the highest quality.
Dickon Weir-Hughes is the chief executive and registrar for the Nursing and Midwifery Council