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RCN members vote to lobby to protect nurse title

RCN members vote to lobby to protect nurse title
Credit: RCN

RCN members have voted for Council to ‘lobby legislators’ to protect the nurse title in UK law so only registered nurses can use it.

At the College’s annual congress yesterday, in Glasgow, 452 members voted in favour and 60 against a resolution, with 29 abstentions and an 89% turnout.

Currently, the ‘nurse’ title is not protected, unlike medical doctor, midwife, paramedic and physiotherapist. This means anyone can call themselves a nurse without needing qualifications or experience, or if they have been struck off the register.

Sally Bassett (pictured above), Nurses in Management and Leadership Forum chair, which submitted the resolution to Congress, told delegates: ‘The public trust us because we’re committed to keeping them safe and advocating for them when they’re at their most vulnerable.

‘This issue unites us all. Without protection, it’s not possible to capture accurate workforce data, there is a risk of dilution of registered nurses, and there is a risk to how the government’s promised 50,000 nurses will be filled. This is a patient safety issue.’

Also speaking in favour of the resolution, Jessica Davidson, Nursing in Justice and Forensic Health Care Forum chair, said there where cases where unregistered and unqualified people had called themselves nurses and performed procedures that put patients at risk.

She said: ‘If we do not take responsibility for our identity, that identity will be defined by others.’

However, a couple of nurse delegates raised concerns that retired nurses will not be able to identify or use the ‘nurse’ title because they are no longer registered nurses.

Professor Alison Leary, who launched the campaign to protect the nurse title, addressed these concerns in a tweet, saying it is ‘not true’ retired nurses will not be able to call themselves nurses, as ‘the motion is about people providing professional services and advice’.

This comes after Professor Leary told Nursing in Practice in December 2021 that the campaign to protect the nurse title continues, although a petition on the issue closed that month without the 100,000 signatories needed to be considered for a debate in Parliament.

Dawn Butler MP, who has backed the campaign, said she on Twitter that she was ‘delighted’ to see the resolution on Congress pass and said it was ‘vital’ to protecting patient safety.

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