Thousands have signed a new petition calling for the nurse title to be protected in UK law so only registered nurses can use it.
The ‘nurse’ title is not currently 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.
The petition was launched on Monday by nurse workforce academic Professor Alison Leary. She told Nursing in Practice that research she worked on in 2017 revealed the ‘nurse’ title is ‘used by many different groups who are not on nursing registers’.
She added: ‘At the very least, the petition will raise public awareness. It has already generated some correspondence from the public, which reflects what we found in our 2017 research.’
The petition has already reached over 8,000 signatures. It needs 10,000 signatures for the Government to respond and 100,000 for it to be considered for debate in parliament.
Professor Leary wrote on the petition: ‘The term nurse can be used by anyone in the UK. They can use this term to offer professional advice and services even if they have no nursing qualifications, experience or have been struck off a professional register.
‘To protect the public, the title nurse should be limited to those who are registered with professional regulators such as registered nurses and dental nurses.’
Many notable nurses have shared the petition on Twitter including QNI chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman, who urged others to sign; Professor June Girvin of Oxford Brookes University, who called the current situation ‘not safe or right’; and RCN GPN Forum chair Ellen Nicholson.
NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said: ‘Under our current legislation, our powers are limited, both in terms of the titles we protect and the action we can take.’
But she added that the NMC wants to work with the Government and other stakeholders ‘to ensure we have the right protected titles and enforcement powers so we can take effective action to protect the public and maintain confidence in the professions’.
This discussion will come as part of the Department of Health and Social Care consultation on regulating healthcare professionals, which closes today. It is seeking views on proposals to modernise the legislation of healthcare regulators.