CoDH statement: ‘Nurse’ as a protected title

28 July 2021

The Council of Deans of Health supports a change in legislation for the word ‘nurse’ to become a protected title. The current situation whereby nurses on the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) register are called ‘Registered Nurses’, but those not on the register can call themselves a ‘nurse’ is unsustainable, creates confusion, and threatens public protection.

The NMC provides standards of proficiency which outline the expert skills, knowledge and behaviours Registered Nurses must meet and continually adhere to, in accordance with the NMC Code. These standards ensure that an individual is fit to qualify as a Registered Nurse and can practise under that title. Standards of proficiency rightly reflect the public’s expectations of a nurse and ensure Registered Nurses deliver safe, compassionate, and effective care.

In order to qualify and gain the right to register, Registered Nurses undergo high quality undergraduate and postgraduate pre-registration degree programmes, which are rigorously quality assured by the NMC in line with its programme standards. The UK should be proud of the excellent nursing education provided by its universities in partnership with practice placement providers.

Once registered, revalidation is a critical part of the regulatory process, which Registered Nurses must complete every three years. This ensures they can continually develop and reflect on their professional practice and strengthens public confidence in the nursing profession.

Currently in the UK, an individual can use the title ‘nurse’ without being on the NMC register, without having graduated from an NMC approved education institution, and without having gone through revalidation every three years.

The pandemic has shone a light on the expertise and commitment of the UK’s nursing profession. Registered Nurses make an invaluable contribution to the nation’s health and wellbeing. The Council believes it is important that this is recognised via a clear and coherent protected title. This would bring nursing into alignment with the other disciplines our members educate in midwifery and the allied health professions.

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