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NMC: Working towards a new code for nurses

With nurse revalidation on the horizon, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) are working with nurses on an updated code to support patients and professionals alike

Like all regulated professionals, nurses and midwives work to a code of conduct. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) code sets the principles of what the public should expect from a nurse and midwife and defines what it means to be a regulated professional. The code is not about clinical standards, or terms of employment; it is about conduct, behaviour, ethics and professionalism. 

The code underpins all the NMC does to protect the public. It is used when students are educated in nursing or midwifery, before they join the register. It is used when somebody's fitness to practise is called into question. And, when revalidation is introduced in 2015, it will be regularly used to confirm and celebrate professionalism. Revalidation will position the code at the heart of everyday nursing and midwifery practice. 

The current code has been in place since 2008, so it was due to be looked at this year to make sure it continues to reflect contemporary practice. A lot has happened over the intervening six years, including the publication of the seminal Francis report. In the Francis report, the NMC code was praised for its clarity and simplicity. We hope that this has been retained in the draft revision. Several of the recommendations from the Francis report - including the duty of candour - have also been reflected in the draft code.

The Francis report also led us to increase the emphasis on the basic fundamentals of care; the need for nurses and midwives to act as advocates for patients and the need for clear communication and clear, respectful professional boundaries. 

The draft code is built around five fundamental aspirations, whereas the previous version was built around four principles. This has allowed us to separate out the important responsibility of upholding the reputation of the profession. The other four aspirations are: 

 - Make the care of people your first concern.

 - Work with others to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of those in your care, their families and carers, and the wider community.

 - Provide a high standard of practice and person-centred care at all times. 

 - Be open and honest and act with integrity. 

The draft code also includes a new and dedicated section for patients and the public to explain exactly what they can expect from the professionals who care for them, particularly in terms of competency and behaviour. 

We have included standards about the responsibilities of nurses and midwives in leadership or management positions. We have included information about the responsible use of social media. We have been more explicit about keeping skills and knowledge up-to-date. These additions to the code are there to support nurses and midwives, and to clarify what is expected to patients and the public.

The draft code also aligns to revalidation, which will be the single biggest change we have made to the way we regulate nurses and midwives since the NMC was introduced in 2002. As a result, there will be a greater emphasis on the requirements for practice hours and continuing professional development, which are central to continuing fitness to practise.

It is essential that the code is applicable to the practice of all nurses and midwives, no matter what their employment setting or stage of their careers: we need to make sure the code will work for you. If you have views on any of the proposed changes which I have discussed, or on any other aspect of the code, please take the time to share your feedback with us at www.nmc-uk.org/code-survey. We welcome the opportunity to hear from as many nurses and midwives as possible.