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Onwards and upwards

With the annual registration fee for nurses set to increase, the chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) explains the reasons behind this difficult decision.

At the start of October, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) made the very difficult decision to increase the annual registration fee to £120. 

In May 2012 we identified that £120 per year, per nurse and midwife was the current, true cost of regulation. This is a figure which remains the same today despite a 14% increase in fitness to practise (FtP) referrals. We have absorbed this increased cost through our FtP efficiencies programme which aims to deliver an addition £54 million in efficiency savings over the next three years. 

Following a consultation in 2012 to increase the annual registration fee, the government provided us with a one-off grant of £20 million which enabled us to hold the fee at £100 for two years. Now that those two years are drawing to a close we are required to ensure that we have the funds to fulfil our core regulatory function of protecting the public. In the UK, professional regulation is based on the premise that regulation is funded by those professionals who are regulated. This is the case for all professional healthcare regulators in the UK.

During the two years since we increased the fee, we have worked hard to improve in all areas of the organisation; we have cleared our historic caseload (a year earlier than we committed to), made progress against our adjudication target, stabilised our IT systems and we are on target to meet our reserves key performance indicator. 

If our Council had decided not to increase the fee we would be unable to make further improvements that both the public and nurses and midwives expect us to make. We would also have to vastly reduce our activity in fitness to practise which would prevent us from fulfilling our core duty of protecting the public - this would not be good for the professions we regulate or the public we protect. 

We are acutely aware of the current economic pressures facing nurses and midwives and we have listened carefully to the consultation responses. We have recently consulted in introducing a system of paying the registration fees in instalments and we have committed to implementing that by 2016. If we can do it quicker, we will.  

We would also implore all nurses and midwives to claim tax relief on their annual registration fee. If you haven't claimed before you can claim for up to five previous tax years and you can also get relief on your professional body or union subscription and for tights and shoes purchased as part of your uniform. This could be worth up to £177 per year. 

Many nurses and midwives, as part of their consultation response on the fee, commented on the costs of the NMC being primarily located London. Our headquarters on Portland Place only costs us £250 per year and we have recently moved some of our hearings space to Stratford which has enabled us to take advantage of much lower rental rates than in central London. During the next year will also be undertaking a full accommodation review to ensure that our buildings continue to represent value for money while providing us with the right accommodation. 

We are committed to keeping the fee at the lowest level that will enable us to carry out our core function of protecting the public. Our Council have also committed to reviewing the fee annually, and if possible, in the future, reducing it. We will also be scoping the possibility of introducing staggered fee levels for those who work part time or who are entering the profession for the first time. 

Our Council's decision to increase the registration fee will give us the financial stability we need to continue along our journey of becoming a modern and more effective regulator.