The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has retracted its "heavy-handed" and "intimidating" comments on strike action in the face of threatened legal proceedings.
Following last week's statement, which suggested nurses and midwives may be in breach of the NMC Code of Conduct if they chose to take industrial action and thereby risk their registrations, the regulator has found itself in a storm of controversy.
Amid growing backlash, the NMC has sought to 'clarify' its position.
In his latest statement, Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes, Chief Executive of the NMC, said the Code "does not prohibit nurses and midwives from taking part in lawful industrial action" and it is the responsibility of employers to ensure there is adequate cover in the event of strike action.
The union Unison has welcomed the retraction, after it gave the NMC 24 hours to withdraw its statement and said that legal action would be issued in the High Court today (10 October) if the regulator did not make a "satisfactory response".
However, it will continue to seek answers from the NMC as to what was behind the 'heavy-handed" and "threatening" original statement.
"This is a significant climb down by the NMC and we are pleased they have accepted that the code of conduct in no way stops nurses and midwives from taking lawful industrial action," said David Prentis, Unison's General Secretary.
"Although Unison is asking members to vote 'yes' in the ballot, we want members to vote with their conscience and know that they are free to do so without fear or intimidation.
"We will not allow anyone to bully our members and will defend their legitimate right to express their anger at government ministers attempt to rob their pensions."
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Not surprised. As always, they only jump in to protect the PUBLIC!" - Helen, London
"If they fail to provide guidance on our code of conduct without taking on board that they remain non-political, then as 'our' professional body for protection of the public via regulation and registration maybe we should withhold our yearly payment as a form of protest regarding their level of responsibility!" - Name and address supplied
"This amounts to a retraction. As a member of the public, I feel that the NMC are poor value for money and I have never felt protected as a patient by the NMC, they come over as 'Big Brother', it is they that need to be protected from themselves, they overstate the code of conduct and not have the confidence of nurses and midwives. With this latest showing they would do well in future to just collect the as a gesture of goodwill to reduce the registration fee in 2012 down to about £60. If are a very poor regulator and should seek guidance to improve their image with their registrants. Shame on you NMC" - Francesco Palma, South West
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