Celebrating 100 years since the official opening of the register

Published on 30 September 2021

Today we mark the centenary of the General Nursing Council for England and Wales opening the official register.

Over the past 100 years, our register has grown and now consists of almost 732,000 nurses, midwives and nursing associates.

At the beginning of the month, Andrea Sutcliffe, our Chief Executive and Registrar, wrote a blog for the Nursing Times about the 100th anniversary of the official opening of the register by the General Nursing Council for England and Wales.

Reflecting on nursing and midwifery regulation, she said asked what Ethel Gordon Fenwick, a campaigner for nurse registration and the first to join the register would think of nursing and regulation today.

“I am certain she would have been proud of your important role in our health and social care system, particularly in the last 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic. I know I am. I bet she would be challenging us as the regulator to think about what more we could do to promote high professional standards and ensure public confidence in nursing and midwifery.

Ethel’s determination to secure regulation for nurses was driven by her understanding of their professional skills and the need to maintain high standards. That remains at the heart of everything the Nursing and Midwifery Council does. Our standards ensure everyone who joins our register has the knowledge and expertise required to provide safe, effective, kind care that supports people to improve everyone’s health and wellbeing.”

Andrea also reflected on the importance of continuing to challenge ourselves as a regulator and what more we can be doing to support high professional standards and public confidence in the nursing and midwifery professions.

“First we need legislative reform. So much of what we do is guided by legislation that is more than 20 years old. It stops us from being as flexible and responsive as we would like to be. We have a great opportunity with the government’s programme for regulatory reform.

One aspect we really want to pursue is that the title nurse is currently not protected. Recent cases have shown the limitations of that. I believe it is essential we have the right protected titles, and associated enforcement powers to take effective action to protect the public and maintain confidence in the professions.

We are also focused on making sure everything we do is rooted in fairness. The second phase of our Ambitious for Change research will explore how our fitness to practise, and other regulatory processes, impact individuals and their families, so we can better understand why people from different backgrounds sometimes have different experiences and outcomes.

In 2019 we also celebrated 100 years of the Nurses Registration Act. Our Always Caring, Always Nursing web hub includes a timeline of 100 years of nursing regulation.


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