What is the fee for?

I am often asked by nurses and midwives what they get in return for the fee they pay to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). For most, being on a professional register is sufficient. For others, it is not – and the NMC is challenged to spell out the meaning of being a professional.

Jackie Smith: ‘Nurses and midwives should have confidence in the body that was created to regulate them’

Picture credit: Barney Newman

Since I became chief executive of the NMC my focus has been on our core purpose of protecting the public. We have achieved this through commitment and determination, but also through delivery; reducing the time it takes to deal with complaints and eliminating the backlog of cases.

Putting public protection at the heart of everything we do is our motto and we have delivered on our promises. But there is more to do.

We have already taken a big step towards making your interactions with us quicker and more convenient. We have changed our website to make it easier for you to find the information you need and we have introduced NMC Online. This is an important development because it puts everything in one place. You will need an NMC Online account to find out your renewal date before revalidation is introduced later this year.

I recognise that revalidation poses challenges for a register of our size and that you need to be confident we will do our bit to make sure the system works.

Revalidation is your moment to show what it means to be a professional by demonstrating your commitment to keeping your knowledge and skills up to date throughout your career. I know some of you may be anxious about this change so I encourage you to read our guidance.

I was deeply disappointed at the lack of a government bill that would allow us to make much-needed changes to our legal framework, particularly in how we deal with fitness to practise cases. Unlike other regulators, our legislation does not allow us many options for handling cases and the only way to deal with most complaints with a case to answer is through a hearing.

We get about 5,000 complaints a year and about 30% of these go towards a hearing at an approximate cost of £13,000 each time.

Imagine if the criminal justice system had to operate in the same way. It would collapse.

It takes an average of 15 months to conclude a case that goes to a hearing and I believe we can protect the public better if we had other means to conclude cases.

Complaints are rising across all the professional health regulators, making our current model unsustainable and putting continued pressure on costs. This, in turn, places pressure on registration fees.

We will continue to press for changes to legislation because we have our part to play in maintaining public confidence in nursing and midwifery, two professions that society holds in high regard.

It is only right that the public and the professions should also have the utmost confidence in the body that was created to protect and regulate them.

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