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Blog: Helping nurses, midwives and nursing associates through the Coronavirus pandemic

An update from Andrea on what we're doing to support the professionals on our register

It doesn’t matter how often we say it – it’s true. These are unprecedented times. The world is having to cope with a pandemic that’s wreaked havoc in people’s lives. The impact on health and social care has been immense.

Every day we hear about numbers of cases, Covid19 hospital beds and tragic deaths. But these aren’t numbers – these are people. People with families, friends, histories and lives to live that some will not see. Very few of us will be unaffected either directly or by connection with a family member, friend or colleague.

And as ever, the constant beating heart of the health and social care system, our nursing and midwifery professionals, are by their side. They’re being called upon to do extraordinary things – in intensive care, throughout the hospital system, in maternity services, in nursing homes and across every community setting.

As the professional regulator for nurses, midwives, and nursing associates the NMC is incredibly proud of our registrants and the difference they are making. On behalf of everyone here, I would like to say thank you – we are in awe.

NMC – here to help

We also know we have a very important role to play to support you. We’ve been trying to do that in lots of different ways by:

  • Providing clear and comprehensive information through the Coronavirus hub on our website
  • Reassuring you that we understand the context in which you are working and will take that into account if concerns are raised about your practice
  • Clarifying how the Code applies when you are facing difficult questions, for example, in relation to Personal Protective Equipment and Advance Care Planning
  • Establishing the emergency temporary register to help expand the nursing and midwifery workforce to cope with increased demand
  • Agreeing emergency education standards so nursing and midwifery students have options and can contribute to the COVID19 response if they want to
  • Extending revalidation deadlines by three months and securing powers to extend this flexibility further
  • Continuing our high priority fitness to practise work through virtual hearings
  • Minimising the burden of information requests on busy professionals
  • Moving NMC colleagues to work at home (including our Contact Centre) so we can play our part in staying home to save lives

We’re working with the four Chief Nursing Officers and their teams, the Council of Deans, universities and education commissioning bodies, the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, Unison and Unite to agree our plans and identify further opportunities to help. I’m very grateful for their contributions, challenges and collaborative approach. It’s meant we’ve done a lot very quickly.

But what about the fee?

It’s been suggested another way we could support nurses, midwives and nursing associates is to waive the fee our registrants pay this year. There’s a petition gathering thousands of signatures to make the point very visibly.

I completely understand the desire to recompense and reward our professionals for the amazing things they’re doing during the response to Covid19 but I’m afraid waiving or reducing the fee is not something we plan to do.

I don’t want to be hard-hearted about this but I believe I owe our registrants and the public who are supporting them an honest explanation why not.

The registration fee is an important part of being a registered health or social care professional and nurses, midwives and nursing associates are not alone in paying it. All other registered health or social care professionals in the UK also pay a fee. It is essentially your licence to practise.

Charging a fee is a statutory requirement, part of the legal framework that sets out what we do and how we do it – changing that requires the approval of parliament.

A key reason the fee is important to the NMC is that it’s our only source of income – we don’t rely on government funding for our regular activities of setting standards, maintaining the register, supporting revalidation and running fitness to practise. This keeps us independent so we can protect the public by supporting our professionals – in normal times and during this emergency.

We’re always very conscious that the resources we spend come from our registrants pockets. That’s why we’ve held the fee at £120 since 2015 and have committed in our financial strategy to keeping it at this level for as long as possible. We also recognise that paying the full amount can be difficult so we’ve introduced ways to make it easier to pay, for example, splitting the cost over quarterly direct debits and giving you more time if you’re experiencing hardship.

Temporary register

The Coronavirus Act that gave us the powers to establish the temporary register specifically prohibited us from charging temporary registrants a fee. We’ve incurred costs as I’m sure you can imagine for this novel, unexpected activity. I’ve written to Government officials and raised with the Minister that we will be identifying the associated expenditure and expecting the UK government to cover them. I don’t think it’s appropriate for existing professionals to bear the cost of our response to this national emergency.

Thank you

No doubt there’s more the NMC can do to help and we will. But along with millions across the UK, children drawing rainbows, neighbours cheering you on a Thursday night, I want to end for now by saying thank you to every nurse, midwife and nursing associate on the permanent or temporary register wherever you are working in health and social care. You are total stars.

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