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Tuesday, 9 February, 1999, 17:25 GMT
Shake-up planned for nursing
The regulation of nursing is being streamlined
Nurses have welcomed a "refreshing" shake-up in the way nurses are regulated which is part of the government's attempts to modernise the NHS.

The main thrust of the changes is to simplify the way nurses are governed and to better protect the public.

The government is proposing to get rid of the five statutory bodies which regulate nursing and replace them with a single nationwide organisation with a smaller, more strategic council.

It is also to look into whether it is possible to regulate health care assistants who are on the bottom rung of the nursing profession.

Nurses, health visitors, midwives and professions allied to medicine, such as occupational therapy, are currently regulated by the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC) as well as boards for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The change follows criticism of the UKCC over its failure to take action in the case of Deborah Parry, one of the nurses accused of murder in Saudi Arabia.

She is now working at a private hospital.

The UKCC argued that it could not do anything about the case because the Saudi authorities had failed to give any evidence to support the case against her.

Review

The government has taken action following the recommendations of an independent review of the Nurses, Midwives and Health Vistors Act, conducted by a consultancy firm.

It said nurses should be governed by a single body which should be composed of lay and employer members and should have new powers to give a more flexible range of sanctions and support for health workers.

It also called for a more streamlined professional register, fewer barriers to multi-professional working and for work to be commissioned on regulating health care assistants.

A recommendation to have separate registration for health visitors was rejected by the government.

This is because it wants health visitors to maintain their independence since it has plans to increase their role, particularly in promoting public health initiatives.

Health minister Baroness Hayman said: "Today's announcement is part and parcel of our wider agenda to modernise the NHS to make it fit for the 21st century.

"Our response (to the review) shows our commitment to provide a modern, flexible framework within which the nursing, midwifery and health visiting professions can best protect the interests of the patient, and which will ensure that practitioners and their patients can feel secure that the profession will set and monitor its standards effectively."

The announcement comes on the day the House of Lords gives its second reading to the Health Bill, which includes a bigger role for nurses in primary health.

The government says the changes are linked to the recent pay rise for nurses and plans for a new grading system for nurses.

The Royal College of Nursing welcomed the proposals, particularly the fact that the government is looking into whether to regulate health care assistants.

General secretary Christine Hancock said they would give "more clarity and certainty for patients and nurses".

See also:

02 Feb 99 | NHS pay 99
The future of NHS pay?
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