An increasingly heated war of words is continuing between unions and the nursing regulator in Ireland ahead of a planned hike in its fees from the start of next year.
From 1 January 2015, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland is set to implement a 50% increase in its annual registration fee from €100 to €150 – equivalent to a rise of around £78.50 to £118.
Widespread opposition has seen the board issue a number of threats that nurses and midwives will be removed from the register without payment, leading unions to respond with warnings of major disruption for health services.
The three unions representing nurses and midwives in Ireland – the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Psychiatric Nurses Association and the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union – have described the fee rise as “a wholly unjustified smash and grab by the NMBI”.
There have been a number of protests staged since the board decided to up the registration fee at a meeting in September.
Unions have previously advised registrants to pay only €100 of the fee and plan to distribute badges to them as an indicator of payment, arguing that the board cannot remove them from the register “without undergoing a lengthy process which takes a minimum of two months”.
In the latest phase of their campaign, nurses and midwives have also been urged to demonstrate their opposition by posting “selfies” and group photographs on social media platforms, such as Twitter, to highlight the issue to local government representatives.
They argue that the latest fee rise comes on the back of increases in each of the past three years, while other comparable health professionals have had their registration fees capped for the next three years.
However, after its last board meeting on 12 December, the regulator reiterated that the fee increase was needed to ensure it could “continue to fulfil its role as statutory regulator”.
The board also said that the badges unions “will be circulating to members relating to a €100 payment has no legal standing as an indicator of current active registration”.
“The board wishes to advise that if a registrant has not paid the annual registration fee by the 2 February 2015, one reminder notice will be issued to the registrant concerned which will allow for removal from the register, under the Nurses and Midwives Act 2011, if full payment is not made within 28 days of this notice being issued,” it said in a statement.
“Employers have confirmed to the board that they cannot employ nurses and midwives who have been removed from the register,” it added.
The row in Ireland follows an equally unpopular registration fee rise for nurses and midwives in the UK this year.
In October, the UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council agreed to increase the annual registration fee for nurses and midwives from £100 to £120.