Always Caring, Always Nursing: Celebrating 100 years of nursing regulation

13 September 2019

The countdown is on – it’s officially 100 days until the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) celebrates a century of nursing regulation.

Launching from tomorrow (Saturday 14 September 2019), ‘Always Caring, Always Nursing’ celebrates a century of professional pride and awareness about the vital role nurses working across all health and care settings hold in our society.

Regarded as the UK’s most trusted profession, nursing touches the lives of people and communities everywhere in an astonishing variety of roles. The pride of being a registered nurse shines through the testimonies of professionals on the register.

But the road to regulation was not straightforward and it was the relentless effort of one person that made it happen.

Ethel Gordon Fenwick, former matron of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, spent 32 years campaigning for the state registration of nursing. Her objectives were to establish a compulsory register of nurses, to standardise training, improve patient safety, and advance the profession

On December 23, 1919, after numerous false starts, she watched from the public gallery in the House of Commons as the Nurses Registration Act was passed.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said:

“A century on from the introduction of nurse registration, I’m sure Ethel Gordon Fenwick would be proud of her legacy and the fantastic contribution nurses make every day in our communities.

“So much has changed in the last 100 years with nurses working in ways and settings Ethel couldn’t have dreamed of. But what has remained constant is their dedication to the people they support in health and social care and the pride they have in being a registered nurse.

“It’s a great privilege and responsibility for the Nursing and Midwifery Council to regulate such an important and trusted profession. We want to use our anniversary to reflect on all that has been achieved since 1919 and show how nurses have made and continue to make a difference for people using services and their families.

“Our anniversary celebrations are the perfect springboard for the WHO Year of the Nurse and the Year of the Midwife in 2020 and our own development as we introduce our new five year strategy next April.”

Ruth May, England's Chief Nursing Officer, said:

“The NMC register is a record of the many talented and dedicated nurses and midwives who have enriched the lives of England’s patients and the public over the past 100 years and is a part of our proud history.

“It shows our diverse make up, and as the biggest professional register in the world, it’s also a reminder that these professions truly are the backbone of the NHS.

“I am delighted to join the NMC in celebrating the countdown to this fantastic milestone.”

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said:

“The Royal College of Nursing has worked with the NMC closely since its inception to support the professional registration of nurses.

“The Nursing Registration Act was passed in 1919 after decades of campaigning by nurses. In fact, it was the campaign for professional registration that saw the birth of the RCN in 1916.

“From the first registrants through to today’s nurses and midwives, the NMC has been there setting and constantly reviewing the professional standards to ensure the profession and its nurses provide current, evidence based care that ensures good outcomes for patients.

“Nursing and midwifery have both undergone many changes during the past 100 years and no doubt will continue to do so over the next 100 years.”

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said:

“The dedicated nurses at the heart of our NHS provide compassionate care in some of the most challenging and momentous times of our lives and we are incredibly grateful for everything they do.

“My grandmother worked in the NHS as a nurse, and I know how much commitment and devotion nurses put in to caring for their patients every day and night.

“In celebrating this important milestone we rightly recognise the expertise and experience which underpin nursing as a profession so patients can trust that they are receiving the best possible care.

“I’d like to thank the NMC for their continued work in upholding these standards and I am committed to backing the nurses of the future to develop rewarding and fulfilling careers in our health and care system.”


Further background

1. For further media enquiries, please contact NMC press office on 020 7681 5415 or email

2. Find out more about ‘Always Caring, Always Nursing’ here: from Saturday 14 September 2019.

3. Join in with @nmcnews Twitter activity using the hashtag #PrideInNursing

4. The ‘Always Caring, Always Nursing’ centenary celebrations begin on 14 September 2019 – 100 days before the 100 year anniversary – with a range of activities and events planned throughout the autumn months. This includes a competition to design a brand new commemorative badge, a new film from the NMC, interactive timeline and a celebratory event.

5. The celebrations will act as a springboard into the WHO (World Health Organization) Year of the Nurse and Year of the Midwife in 2020 which the NMC will be marking with its partners across the health and care sector throughout the year.

6. In addition, the regulator will shortly be asking its Council to approve brand new standards of education for the next generation of midwives – a major milestone that, if approved, will be supported by a range of communications activity. This will include a series of UK wide events early next year that will also celebrate the registration of midwives that has taken place for over a century.

7. The 2018 Ipsos MORI Veracity Index – the longest-running poll on trust in professions in Britain found that nurses remain the most trusted profession.

About the NMC

As the professional regulator of nurses and midwives in the UK, and nursing associates in England, we work to ensure these professionals have the knowledge and skills to deliver consistent, quality care that keeps people safe.

We set the education standards professionals must achieve to practise in the United Kingdom. When they have shown both clinical excellence and a commitment to kindness, compassion and respect, we welcome them onto our register of nearly 700,000 professionals.

Once registered, nurses, midwives sand nursing associates must uphold the standards and behaviours set out in our Code so that people can have confidence that they will consistently receive quality, safe care wherever they’re treated.

We promote lifelong learning through revalidation, encouraging professionals to reflect on their practice and how the Code applies in their day-to-day work.

On the rare occasions that care goes wrong, or falls short of people’s expectations, we can step in to investigate, and take action when needed. But we want to prevent something going wrong in the first place. So, we promote a culture that encourages professionals to be open and learn from mistakes, gives the public an equal voice and where everyone involved is treated with kindness and compassion.

If we’re to play our part in making sure safe, high quality and consistent standards of care can be delivered, we need to continue to improve. That is why we are working with people, professionals and our partners to co-produce a new long-term strategy, one that’ll help us to support nurses, midwives and nursing associates to deliver even better, safer care.