9 Dec 2021 | Anne Marie Fogarty
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Recently, we caught up with Professor Alison Leary, PhD FRCN FQNI MBE, Chair of Healthcare & Workforce Modelling LSBU and Founder of the #ProtectNurse Campaign to speak about the recent developments happening with the Campaign and why it is so important to retain the title “nurse” under UK law.
The Health and Care Bill – aims to enforce greater collaboration between the NHS, local authorities and care providers to achieve integrated care and is currently going through the House of Commons. Professor Leary wants to protect the title “nurse” in UK legislation, following several cases of people misusing it.
What is the current situation with the Campaign?
At present, ‘registered nurse’ and ‘specialist community public health nurse’ are protected titles and ‘nursing associate’ and ‘midwife’, but ‘nurse’ alone is not.
The #ProtectNurse Campaign stresses that anyone in the UK can refer to themselves as a nurse, even if they have been struck off the nursing register, have no qualifications or have been convicted of a crime.
Therefore, campaigners are calling on the government to help protect the public by changing the law to protect the title ‘nurse’.
How did this Campaign begin?
In 2017 Prof. Alison Leary and research colleagues published a paper looking at nursing titles in common use. As a result of the paper, Alison and her colleagues found that employers were hiring people with no registerable nursing qualifications, with job titles such as Advanced Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist.
Although the term Registered Nurse (RN) is protected under the 1997 Nurses Midwives and Health Visiting Act, the term “nurse” is not protected in the UK. And “nurse” is a term commonly used. Other healthcare professional titles are all protected under UK law. Not having the term nurse protected means anyone can use it to offer services, advice or be employed as a “nurse.”
According to the campaigners, the misuse of job titles is both a patient safety and a trust issue. It also hides significant workforce issues in health and social care. In 2019 there were over 50,000 registered nurse vacancies in England, and the government went about recruiting more “nurses”. Not defining nurse means other workers can be employed in these roles and further mask the nursing shortage. The solution is to protect the term nurse so that there is more transparency in workforce shortages issues and patients receive nursing care from a suitably qualified nurse who is competent and registered to deliver that care.
Why does this matter?
By replacing RNs with other workers under an umbrella “nurse” term means that patients are not getting experienced nursing care from a qualified nurse. RNs are often being replaced with other registered workers and workers such as support workers, who simply do not have expert training and qualification.
Prof. Alison Leary says:
“We have been shocked at how many members of the public have brought this issue to our attention and delighted that so many have supported our Campaign. This is a patient safety issue.”
Patient safety should never be compromised, and by not ensuring the title of a nurse is protected, that safety is being highly compromised by:
- Non-nursing workers employed in nursing roles.
- Significant gaps in staffing/workforce areas are veiled over, and a true picture is not presented – the amount of registered nursing vacancies we predict is far greater than what is being presented. The workforce deficit is being diluted by counting in nurses filling registered nurse vacancies.
The patient, the public and the country deserve an accurate picture of how skeletal the nursing workforce really is. This would be achieved through the legal protection of the nurse title.
Protect the Nurse Title Campaign supported by our flexible healthcare workforce solution organisation
As a flexible workforce solution organisation supporting our NHS and putting people first, we pride ourselves on deploying quality registered nursing and medical professionals. We are acutely aware of the significant gaps in the healthcare workforce and strive to find solutions that address those gaps in the short and long term.
Patient safety is paramount to all nursing care. The protection of the title “nurse” is a critical issue at the core of patient care in the UK.
If you want to support the Campaign or find out more, visit https://twitter.com/alisonleary1