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OPINION

'The hike in NMC registration fees is one financial hit too many'

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Make your feelings known on the proposed NMC fee increase, urges the RCN’s Peter Carter

I am sure it will not have escaped the attention of readers of Nursing Times that nurses working in the UK today are facing some pretty difficult times. From increases in pension contributions to a freeze on pay, it rarely gets much tougher than this. In addition, there is the constant flow of negative media coverage that nursing has had to deal with in recent months. All in all, it is fair to say that these factors do nothing to improve the morale of hardworking members of the nursing team.

On top of all of these difficult issues, we learnt last month that our regulatory body intends to impose yet another financial pressure on nurses. The Nursing and Midwifery Council has announced proposals to increase the annual registration fee from £76 to £120. That is a rise of nearly 60%, or £44 a year.

With the costs of living continuing to increase, and to outpace the salaries of hard-pressed nurses, this is a significant sum for many individuals and their families.

Since this proposal was announced, the Royal College of Nursing has made no secret of its firm opposition to something that would see already stretched nurses facing yet more financial pressure.

I genuinely believe it could not have come at a worse time. I have already spoken to a large number of members on this issue and the response has been unanimous - it is one financial hit too many.

“We need a strong and sustainable professional regulator - but it isn’t right that nurses should be hit by yet another financial blow”

It is undoubtedly the case that the NMC is facing financial difficulties; however, it should not be incumbent on hardworking nurses to foot the bill for those difficulties, which are not of their making.

Equally, one has to question the assumption that the solution to quite difficult financial problems is to simply increase the registration fee.

In the last five years, the RCN has improved its own financial health significantly. We increased income, reduced our pensions deficit and stabilised our overall position, all without a hike in subscriptions of anywhere near the size proposed by the NMC.

It is clear that there are several factors to be considered in tackling this problem - not least the fact that the NMC may have to pay up to £800,000 towards the running of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.

Should this be the case or should the CHRE find its funding elsewhere? Should the government step in or would increasing their role risk damaging the independence of the profession to self-regulate?

However we look at it, the fact remains that the NMC provides a vital function and its existence needs to be safeguarded for both nurses and patients.

The RCN has recently launched a survey to find out what our members think about the proposed rise and we will use the findings to inform our own formal response to the NMC’s consultation; tens of thousands of RCN members have already had their say. As a member-led organisation, it is essential that we gather the views of our members to make our response to the nursing regulator as representative as it can possibly be.

I fully expect that nurses will make their views very clear and would hope that both the NMC and the government will consider alternative funding solutions.

We need a strong and sustainable professional regulator - but it isn’t right that nurses should be hit by yet another financial blow.

The RCN’s survey can be completed here http://frontlinefirst.rcn.org.uk/nmc-fee-survey. I would urge all nurses to take two minutes to make their views known on this incredibly important matter.

Peter Carter is general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing

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