Our position on industrial action
Published on 30 August 2022
Read our statement
Strike action involving registered nursing and midwifery professionals will be taking place in September at some workplaces
We are often asked about how industrial action, including strike action, relates to the NMC Code of conduct for nurses, midwives and nursing associates. As the nursing and midwifery regulator, we’ve taken this opportunity to update our existing statement on industrial action and ensure we are highlighting our latest resources.
Guidance for professionals who choose to take part in industrial action including strike action
Nursing and midwifery professionals have the right to take part in lawful industrial action, including strike action.
Our Code still applies to the people on our register while they’re taking part in industrial action or are on strike. This means the standards and behaviours that the public has a right to expect from their nurses, midwives and nursing associates continue to apply.
During industrial action, employers in health and care services have an important role to play in planning and preparing for how people’s individual needs can be responded to and their continuity of care maintained.
Guidance for professionals not taking part in a period of industrial action including strike action
Professionals who are not taking part in a period of industrial action may worry about their decisions and actions, when providing care might be more challenging than usual.
Employers will provide guidance for staff who work during the time. Employers have a key role in planning for continuity of services and timely person-centred care during industrial action.
Professionals can also watch our Caring with Confidence series of animations. We produced these in 2020 to show how the Code can support you in difficult situations.
In the event that anything does go wrong and a nurse, midwife or nursing associate is referred to us, we’d like to reassure professionals that we take account of context when reviewing concerns. We know that concerns which may appear to be the result of poor individual practice can be caused by pressures on the health and care system they work in and we will always take account of that.
Frequently asked questions for nurses, midwives and nursing associates
1. As a nurse, midwife of nursing associate, do I have the right to take part in industrial action, including strike action?
Yes. You have the right to take part in lawful industrial action, including strike action. If you’re a member of a trade union, you should follow your union’s advice to make sure you are taking part in industrial action lawfully.
Employers will consider the impact of industrial action, including strike action on the care of patients and people using services, putting in place any supportive measures to help minimise disruption.
2. Will the NMC take action against me if I strike?
We will not take fitness to practise action against someone solely on the basis that they are taking part in lawful industrial action.
Please remember that our Code and standards always apply which means you should behave in a way that promotes professionalism and trust at all times, including when taking part in industrial action.
3. I’m not planning to take part in industrial action. If I make a mistake while my colleagues are on strike, will the NMC take action against me?
We believe the best way to encourage a safe, fair and open nursing and midwifery culture is to take into account how and why something has gone wrong.
Health and social care settings are complex, so concerns that may appear to be the result of poor individual practice can actually be caused by pressures on the health and care system they work in. That’s why our approach to fitness to practise ensures we take account of context when reviewing concerns.
4. How will you assess how I have made risk assessments and used my professional judgment appropriately when caring for people?
The Code continues to apply in all situations. Section 10 explains what you must do to keep clear and accurate records relevant to your practice. You might find it useful to watch our Caring with Confidence animation on professional judgement.
5. I’m a nursing or midwifery student. What happens if industrial action, including strike action, affects my education?
We expect Approved Education Institutions (AEIs) to assess all risks to your learning. They must tell us if any practice placement environment has been affected, and how they’re mitigating this. For example, if your placement doesn’t have effective support, supervision and assessment because staff are taking industrial action, your AEI has a responsibility to make alternative arrangements and keep you informed.
6. Can I take part in industrial action as a student?
Some students may have the right to join in lawful industrial action, but you should seek advice from your trade union about this. If you do take part in industrial action and miss part of or all of a planned placement or other learning opportunity as a result, you'll need to speak to your AEI about making up for this later in your programme.
7. I’ve noticed there is already an NMC statement on this issue from 2014 and 2019. What’s changed?
Yes, that’s right – you can read our 2014 statement here and our 2019 statement here.
The key principles from both previous statements remain the same. We’ve just updated it to clarify some of the questions we know people will have, and to make sure we highlight our latest resources.
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