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When a ‘nurse’ is not a nurse: why petition calls for legal protection of the job title

Nurse designation should be the preserve of NMC-registered clinicians
Petition to Westminster parliament calls for change in the law to protect nurse job title

Campaign for a change in the law that would stop the use of nurse in job titles when post-holders are not registered clinicians set up by Alison Leary

This article was updated on 18 June 2021 to reflect latest information on number of petition signatories

The law should protect the title of nurse so it can only be used by those registered with their regulator, a nurses petition states.

Currently, anyone can call themselves nurse, even people who have been struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register, although the designation registered nurse is protected in UK law.

A change in the law needed

The petition was set up

Campaign for a change in the law that would stop the use of ‘nurse’ in job titles when post-holders are not registered clinicians set up by Alison Leary

Petition to Westminster parliament calls for change in the law to protect nurse job title
Picture: iStock

This article was updated on 18 June 2021 to reflect latest information on number of petition signatories

The law should protect the title of ‘nurse’ so it can only be used by those registered with their regulator, a nurse’s petition states.

Currently, anyone can call themselves ‘nurse’, even people who have been struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register, although the designation ‘registered nurse’ is protected in UK law.

A change in the law needed

The petition was set up by London South Bank University professor and chair of healthcare and workforce modelling Alison Leary, who did so in a private rather than professional capacity.

Her petition states: ‘To protect the public, the title nurse should be limited to those who are registered with professional regulators such as registered nurses and dental nurses.’

Within a day of the petition starting, on 14 June, it had attracted more than 2,000 signatures, and is receiving support from nurses on social media.

Call for job-title parity with other health professions

Queen’s Nursing Institute’s chief executive, Crystal Oldman called it outrageous that someone can be struck off the nursing register and still call themselves a nurse.

She added: ‘This is not the case for a paramedic or a physiotherapist, so we do not have parity with other healthcare professions. It creates public confusion and potential risks to safety, which is why we are supporting this call to regularise the situation.’

Petition organiser Alison Leary Picture: Nathan Clarke

‘Nurse’ job titles for non-registered roles

Professor Leary has long campaigned for legal protection for the nurse title.

In 2017, she was joint researcher on a study that analysed 8,064 nursing positions. Of these, 4% (323) of post-holders were recorded as having titles such as ‘advanced nurse practitioner’, ‘assistant nurse practitioner’ and ‘specialist nurse’ when they were not, in fact, registered nurses.

She told Nursing Standard: ‘A common scenario is that people make a complaint to the NMC about a nurse, assuming they are a registered nurse, and find out they are not.

‘There needs to be clarity around this and the public need reassurance.’

The petition needed 10,000 signatures for the government to respond officially to it and by 18 June it had reached that threshold. If it secures 100,000 signatures, it would become eligible to be considered for parliamentary debate.

Sign Alison Leary’s petition here


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