Nurses called for better regulation of both the profession and healthcare support workers in a debate today at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council came in for particularly scathing criticism during a discussion on how healthcare professionals should be regulated in future.
Tom Murray, from the Devon RCN branch, which submitted the topic for discussion, noted that the nursing regulator had been the “subject of criticism and scrutiny” for a number of years and reminded delegates that that the registration fee had in February increased from £75 to £100.
He said: “The response from nurses to escalating fees for registration is no, no, no. before they continue to increase the fees they need to come up with a decent service that provides for the patients they are there to protect and for the nurses who pay for it.”
The centre point of Mr Murray’s argument on how to improve regulation was to suggest bringing together the NMC with the General Medical Council, the General Dental Council and the Health and Care Professions Council. This overarching regulator would mean less bureaucracy than four separate ones, he said.
“Does it make sense to have four regulatory bodies – each with each primary legislation controlling them – or would it be more sensible if there was one single regulatory body regulating all those professions?”
The majority of speakers rejected the idea but went on to attack the performance of the NMC and other failings in the regulatory system.
Phillip McCaffrey, Cardiff and the Vale branch, asked “how did we get into this mess”.
“We need to get the NMC into the situation where it is able to work satisfactorily for the benefit of the profession,” he said.
However, he also called on the RCN to continue to lobby the government in order to get regulation of healthcare support workers.
“After all, we are interested in public health and public safety, and surely we should be concerned about the level of care delivered to patients at the bedside or in the community or in any clinical situation,” he said.
Jason Warriner, chair of steering committee for the RCN’s public health forum, said: “I want a regulatory body I can trust and delivers a professional service. As a registered nurse for the last 20 odd years I’m fed up of the scandals around the NMC and the UKCC as it was.
“Yes we need abody that protects the public …but I also want a body that protects nursing and midwifery, that looks after us as well to help us promote standards and safe care for patients.”
David jones, a support worker from the Greater Bristol branch, said he was in support of the regulation of HCAs, but that was “not something that can happen overnight”.
“If healthcare support workers are to go down the line of registration, how’s it going to happen,” he said.
Meanwhile, Linda Bailey, public health voting member, discussed the third part of the register, which she claimed should be got rid of because “its existence makes absolutely no sense to anyone”.
She highlighted that some nurses who went on part three after it was created decided to come off part one. But the Department of Health then realised they had not put the correct legislation in place to allow it.
“Everyone that had been off part one for two years had been technically operating illegally,” she said. “If the NMC register is about public protection – and that is what it is really only about – then part three shouldn’t be there at all.”
With tongue in cheek, RCN Croydon branch member Mike Hayward suggested that NMC stood for “not much cop”.