More than 85,000 nurses have already signed an e-petition calling on the government to review how the Nursing and Midwifery Council decides its annual registration fee following a proposed 20% rise from £100 to £120. Stephen Iwasyk, a mental health liaison nurse at the Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation Trust, only set up the petition on the government’s website last week. It now has nearly 90,000 signatures, close to the 100,000 needed towards triggering a debate in Parliament.
The petition says: “We would like the Government to Review the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) with regard to the fees charged to registered nurses and midwives, and the processes through which those fees are decided.” Mr Iwasyk said: “The fees were increased two years ago from £76 to £100 following a consultation that was overwhelmingly – more than 90% – against the rise.
“The government’s Health Committee in its report earlier that year said ‘We would urge the NMC to avoid further fee rises and to consider fee reductions for new entrants to the register’.” Health union Unison’s Nursing and Midwifery Committee has also attacked the proposed fee rise, pointing out that as well as the last fee rise in 2012, the Government “bailed the NMC out of their financial mess to the tune of £20 million”. Unison’s head of nursing, Gail Adams, said: “Nurses and midwives have no choice, if they don’t pay their registration fee they can’t practice. So they will be understandably angry if that fee was to increase again. “Nurses and midwives have been struggling with pay freezes and a huge increase in their workload. The last they need is an inflated registration fee. “We will have a close look at the proposals, consult with our members and highlight our concerns with Government.” Ann Moses, chair of the committee, said: “As a staff nurse I know the impact that the current fee level has on nurses. It’s becoming ever more difficult for people to balance their budget at home and this will only add to the worry of hard working nurses. Many won’t be able to afford this. “The work which the NMC does is important but fitness to practice is a public protection issue and nurses should not carry the full brunt of this cost.” The NMC said its financial situation was currently “unsustainable” without a further rise in fees. A spokeswoman said: “The NMC council will be reviewing the current fee structure at their March 2014 council meeting in line with its commitment to review fees on an annual basis.” The spokeswoman said the council’s core function is to ensure the protection of the public and without sufficient funding it will be unable to fulfil that regulatory commitment, adding that the one-off grant of £20 million has enabled the registration fee for nurses and midwives to be kept at £100 for two years. The government’s £20 million grant was given to the NMC on the understanding that it would clear its historic caseload by summer 2014 and meet its six-month performance indicator by the end of 2014. The council said it has already cleared its caseload, other than a handful of cases which cannot proceed due to third party involvement, and is on track to meet the six-month adjudications by the end of 2014. The spokeswoman added: “Based on our assumptions, only a fee of £120 would enable us to continue with our current rate of activity and ensure the protection of the public. We are currently looking at a 14% increase in fitness to practise referrals during 2012/13.”