The UK’s official statistics body should use the protected title ‘registered nurse’ instead of just ‘nurse’ in its data for the profession, registered nurses have urged.
In an open letter to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a group of nurses outlined concerns over the organisation’s occupational data. They pointed out that anyone can call themselves a ‘nurse’ – which is the category used by the ONS – while the ‘registered nurse’ title is legally protected.
The letter also called on the SOC to introduce a new title of ‘nursing associate’ and change its sub-categories for nursing to align with the four fields of the profession outlined by the NMC.
It was written by Will Ball, a registered nurse and research fellow at Aberdeen Centre for Health Data Science; Professor Alison Leary, chair of healthcare and workforce modelling at London South Bank University; and Nicola Fisher, a registered nurse and PhD student at the University of Nottingham.
‘Risk of confusion’
The ONS uses the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), which classifies workers by their occupations. This refers to ‘nurses’ instead of ‘registered nurses’.
But the letter authors argued this’ raises the risk of ‘confusion and inaccuracy in official statistics’. This is particularly true where occupational data is based on self-report as ‘there is no legal restriction on who can claim that they work as a nurse,’ they added.
The group also argued that the SOC’s nursing sub-categories – ‘community nurses’, ‘specialist nurses’, ‘nurse practitioners’, ‘mental health nurses’, ‘children’s nurses and ‘other nursing health professionals’ – ‘do not fully reflect the diversity of roles’ in registered nursing.
Instead, they suggested introducing sub-categories that align with the main branches of practice – adult, children’s, mental health and learning disabilities – and a separate category for nursing associates.
An ONS spokesperson said: ‘We look forward with interest to receiving this letter and will consider it carefully as part of our engagement with users of the Standard Occupational Classification. However, the overall structure of the SOC is reviewed as part of a ten-yearly cycle and could only take on board major changes at the next revision.’
This comes amid an ongoing campaign to protect the nurse title in law. The Government said in July last year that it will ‘consider in detail’ whether to protect the title in law as part of the review into professional regulation, in response to the petition on the issue led by Professor Leary.