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PNs face tighter checks on registration

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GPs are to be told to check their practice nurses are on the nursing register in response to fears unqualified staff are posing as registrants.

A letter “reminding GPs of their responsibilities” to check employee qualifications is to be issued by the health departments of the four UK governments, it has emerged.

The move, discussed last week at a meeting of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s ruling council, is an interim measure prior to the introduction of tighter regulation for primary care providers.

It follows an instance last year of a woman being arrested on suspicion of gaining employment as a registered nurse with a practice in Kent without the appropriate qualifications.

Denice Stewart, 47, of Northfields, Speldhurst, near Tunbridge Wells, was arrested in September and subsequently charged in January with fraud by false representation. Her case is due to be heard next month.

Concerns have subsequently been raised that practices may be employing unqualified staff.

An NMC council report said: “An issue was identified last year with GP practices not checking registration of nurses in their employ.”

Council members were told that agreement had been reached with the Care Quality Commission that the need to check nurse registration “would be reflected in inspection processes”, as part of the CQC’s planned introduction of registering GP practices from April 2013.

“In the interim, further work has been undertaken to develop a joint letter from the chairs of the NMC, Royal College of GPs and British Medical Association reminding GPs of their responsibilities,” the report said. “The joint letter will be delivered via the e-bulletins of the chief medical officer, chief nursing officer and the primary care bulletin in each of the four UK health departments.”

As previously reported, the regulator is currently undergoing a strategic review by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence on its handling of Fitness to Practise cases. The NMC has struggled to significantly reduce a historic backlog of cases while at the same time faces a major hike in referrals.

Latest data presented at the meeting shows that the NMC’s total caseload remained at around 4,290 for the first two months of the year, though its “historic” caseload – cases received prior to 11 January 2011 – did fall by 203 between January and February.

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