An unfair rise in nursing practice fees?

— Dave Stacey is a Registered Mental Health NHS Nurse caring for older adults with 13 years experience. He argues the case against the Nursing and Midwifery Council raising its yearly fees in order for midwives and nurses to practice.

Registered nurses in the UK are regulated by a body called the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). They are an unelected body, whose responsibility is the regulation and growth of the nursing and midwifery professions. If we do not register with them, we cannot practice.

I have been a Registered Nurse in Mental Health for 13 years, and since I qualified I have seen the fees rise from £36 for 3 years, to £76 per year to maintain my registration. There are currently approximately 660,000 registered nurses and midwives in the United Kingdom. The NMC are proposing that the fee is again increased to £120 per year on the premise that the NMC is having to prosecute more investigations against poor practice.

In 2011, the percentage of registrants referred to the NMC was 0.6%, percentage investigated was 0.3%, and the percentage given sanction was 0.1%. However, they fails to explain how they can spend about 50% of their income (their own figures) investigating 0.3% of their registered, and finding only 0.1% investigated cases liable for sanction.

The proposed increase of 58% would net a figure of around £70 million per year. In a time of austerity, nurses have been asked to tighten their belts and to accept a pay freeze for two years. We have done this, despite the taxation levels rising and essentially leaving us in a worse financial position than two years ago.

The NMC salaries and associated costs were at £13 million at the year end of 2009, £14.5 million in 2010, and £16.9 million in 2011. This shows a year on year increase from 09/10 of 11.2% and from 10/11 of 16.9%. This can hardly be described as fiscal prudence in our age of austerity.

Nurses and midwives have an unenviable job at times, administering to the sick, helping women in labour, caring for the dying and those who are suffering mental illness which can manifest in aggressive or self-harming behaviours. However it is clearly not justified to demand an increase in our registration fee when the government are demanding cutbacks and prudence.

Lincolnshire is served by three large National Health Service Trusts, and many dozens of GP surgeries and clinics. This increase would affect all nurses and midwives working for them.

Nurses have attempted to make a collective stand against this proposed increase. There is a Facebook group, which is gathering support and posting daily updates of the various schemes and ideas on how to engage the NMC over this issue.

The NMC themselves have to undergo a period of consultation. They have launched an online consultation which can be found on the NMC website. This is a national public consultation, so any member of the public can post their view. There is also a national drive to get nurses to sign an e-petition on the HM government website. It currently stands at over 40,000 signatures.

Nurses and midwives will continue to meet this fight head on. An attempt by a colleague to engage the local Conservative MP, Karl McCartney, has met with little success.