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Nursing unions describe fee increase as ‘disappointing’

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Unions have today criticised the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s decision to increase the annual registration fees for nurses and midwives from £100 to £120.

Gail Adams, Unison’s head of nursing, spoke out against the fee rise at today’s NMC council meeting, during which the fee rise was approved by the regulator’s leaders.

In a statement released after the decision, Ms Adams, said: “It is deeply disappointing that the NMC are going ahead with the increase in fees.”

“We are seriously worried that registrants will vote with their feet and seek employment elsewhere as they simply cannot afford this fee rise”

Gail Adams

She highlighted that the fee rise came soon after a previous increase in 2013 – up from £76 to £100 – and against the background of a dispute over pay with the government.

“Registration fees have gone up by 52% in the past three years,” she said. “So how are nurses and midwives expected to pay for this when their pay has been frozen since 2010?

“Nurses and midwives have no choice but to pay a registration fee as without it they can’t practice. And the truth is financial hardship has hit them hard and they simply can’t afford it so they will be understandably angry,” said Ms Adams.

Gail Adams

She reiterated concerns raised in the union’s evidence to the consultation on the fee rise proposals, in which a survey suggested many nurses would consider leaving the profession to financial pressures.  

“We know that 36% of registrants are aged over 50, 20% over 55 and the NHS has long benefitted from older nurses returning to work on less hours. But a recent Unison survey showed that more than half who those who responded said it would not be economical for them to do so anymore,” she said.

She added: “We are seriously worried that registrants will vote with their feet and seek employment elsewhere as they simply cannot afford this fee rise.” 

Ms Adams also repeated calls for the government to intervene and provide the nursing regulator with a financial grant, as it did in 2012 when the NMC had also sought to put the fee up to £120 but ultimately settled for £100 at the time.

“We believe that government should intervene and provide the NMC with sufficient funds to avoid any increase being imposed on nurses and midwives,” she said. “We remain committed to working with the NMC to reduce the costs of fitness to practice which is its biggest expenditure.”

“Currently 77% of the NMC’s income is spent on managing less than 0.6% of registrants whose fitness to practise is called into question,” she said. “While we recognise the progress made in processing these cases this continues to be the NMC’s biggest costs and this is unsustainable.” 

“We believe the NMC should pursue alternative funding options instead of expecting some of the lowest paid public sector workers to bear the brunt of its financial problems”

Peter Carter

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing said it “condemned” the NMC’s decision, describing the fee rise as “outrageous” and warning that it would be “deeply damaging to nursing morale”.

Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “This is a big blow to nurses and midwives. It means yet more pressure on their personal finances at a time when they are still reeling from the government’s unfair decision to deny them a cost-of-living pay rise.

Peter Carter

“We believe the NMC should pursue alternative funding options instead of expecting some of the lowest paid public sector workers to bear the brunt of its financial problems,” he added.

“The health service is already struggling to keep nursing staff in the profession,” he said. “If the government wants to show support for a workforce that is feeling dejected and unvalued it should step in to help fund the NMC’s work and ensure this outrageous fee rise is avoided.”  

The union Unite, whose nurse members work mostly in health visiting, school nursing and mental health, staged a protest against the fee rise plans outside the NMC’s offices this morning.

In its response to the decision to push ahead with the increase, Unite branded the fee rise as”a kick in the teeth” and accused the NMC of “riding roughshod over the strong opposition of its registrants”. 

Unite professional officer

Jane Beach

Unite professional officer Jane Beach said: “This decision was made, despite the fact that the NMC has nearly £10m locked way in its reserves. And our members are still reeling from absorbing the last 32% increase – from £76 to £100 – in the registration fee.”

Unite restated its policy that there should be a moratorium on any fee hike until at least March 2016 – and even then, any increase should be linked to the annual pay rise for NHS staff.

The Royal College of Midwifery also stressed concerns that a fee rise would act as a disincentive to midwives joining or remaining on the NMC register and claimed the fee was an effective tax of £9.50 for each 12 hour shift worked.

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the RCM, said: “This is very disappointing news. Our members were angry at the suggestion of a fee rise and they will be equally angry now that it is confirmed.

“We strongly objected to the proposed fee rise but now that it is being implanted we must see value for money for midwives from the NMC,” she said.

“Midwives are paying towards the costs of the NMC so we want to see some real and concrete midwifery visibility at the NMC, among staff and on the council.”

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Readers' comments (10)

  • I know how I will pay for the NMC increase, I'll ditch the RCN. After all I joined for the indemnity, as they've stopped that I might as well drop them.

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  • Anonymous | 1-Oct-2014 3:34 pm

    i ditched the RCN years ago. I hope lots of people do as you suggest and cancel their union subs.

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  • The RCN are part of the problem, lots of hot air and no action. The Government and the NMC know that the RCN is ineffective, does very little to protect its members and will accept hikes in registration fees and crippling pay freezes. We need an I'm Spartacus approach to the current problems, nurses have to stand up and say enough is enough. Nurses were even demonised by the Francis report when we all know it was crooked managers chasing targets who caused that shameful disaster.

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  • How much of the present payments made goes to pay for the executives - I feel that alike pay banding for nurses this needs to be published!

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  • I qualified in 1973... I was known as a SRN and my letter....which I still have ...states that I will have this this qualification for life !!! We didn't have to pay a fee and certainly didn't have the likes of the NMC. We did have the RCN who were and still are essential to us Nurses. In all honesty, all I can see from the NMC is empire building... It has lost the real function for nurses. The pay for the top dog is extortionate . More than anything ... The NMC has not been able to have any influence on actual standards of care in hospitals or care homes. I'd like to know what the fees actually go towards apart from the wages of the top dogs ?????

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  • The unions who are complaining about the fee increase and i agree it is wrong.However these are the same unions who charge more than £120 pa for their fees....solution:drop the union as we have to pay the £120 even if we dissagree..

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  • Any increase in registration fees should, in my view be restricted to the rate of inflation. How can the NMC justify a 20% hike?. The RCN always pussyfoots its way around these issues and I agree that since they no longer provide us with any indemnity there is little argument for hanging on to them. Also I think the members of the NMC should publish their salaries , pay increases and expenses. Lets have a bit more transparency regarding the issues that involve our money.

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  • Anonymous | 1-Oct-2014 10:01 pm

    "I qualified in 1973... I was known as a SRN and my letter....which I still have ...states that I will have this this qualification for life !!! "

    it is dreadful that you lose the right to the hard earned letters after your name which were supposed to be for life. I still consider myself a qualified nurse even though not a registered one. I asked the NMC if, when publishing papers, we could have letters such as RN (retired) for example and they said they would consider it but I never got a further answer.

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  • The NMC are a private company demanding money with menaces knowing that Westminster back them Nurses have no option but to pay up or find another profession where they will be treated better

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  • Is there a hardship fund for nurses who cannot afford the fees?
    Struggling this month, won't be able to work, will lose my job and this will lead to me losing my home. Why did I chose to become a nurse all those years ago. Unsocial hours causing ill health No support from the government. Oh wait, perhaps I will claim benifits, or will I be like the soldiers with mental health problems after returning from duties and be left to suffer.

    Dispicable!

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