NHS England chief nursing officer Ruth May has committed her support for the campaign to protect the nurse title in UK law.
In a tweet today, Ms May argued ‘the protection of the professional title provides assurance that someone using that title is competent and safe to practise,’ adding that she is ‘committed to doing all we can to strengthen the protection of the public’.
The ‘nurse’ title is not currently protected, unlike those of 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.
In July, the Government said it will ‘consider in detail’ whether to protect the title in law, in response to a petition on the issue led by workforce academic Professor Alison Leary that reached more than 20,000 signatures.
The Government added that it is currently working with Ms May and the NMC on the issue of protected titles as part of the ongoing review into professional regulation.
Ms May confirmed this on Twitter: ‘I am supportive of protecting the nurse title and welcome the Department of Health and Social Care’s review as part of the Government review of the regulation of health professionals…
‘It is important that any change is carefully considered and I look forward to working with the Department of Health and Social Care on this.’
Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC chief executive, told Nursing in Practice there have been ‘a number of high-profile cases that underline the limitations of ‘nurse’ not being a protected title’.
Recent discussion over the issue has been fuelled by the case of anti-vaccination campaigner Kate Shemirani, who was struck off by the NMC but continues to call herself a nurse.
Ms Sutcliffe continued: ‘I believe it is essential we have the right protected titles, and associated enforcement powers to take effective action to protect the public and maintain confidence in the professions.
‘As part of our work to update our legislation, we are currently engaging with stakeholders and working with the Government and to review our protected titles and ensure they are fit for purpose under any new legislation introduced.’
On Wednesday, Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth said he believed the nurse title should be protected, raising concerns at the QNI conference that people are ‘abusing’ the title.