Since 2001, the statutory body of nursing in the UK has been the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The NMC was preceded by the UK Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC) working in conjunction with four national boards, which dealt with educational standards (1983-2001).
Between 1921 and 1983, there were three General Nursing Councils (GNC) in existence in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The councils had clearly prescribed duties and responsibilities for the training, examination and registration of nurses. They also approved training schools for the purpose of maintaining a register of nurses for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
Register of nurses
The register of nurses was first published in 1922, and was then produced annually until the late 1940s. These volumes list the nurse by name (including maiden name where appropriate), registration date and number, permanent address at that time, and where they qualified with dates. Later volumes were produced in the 1950s, which list only new nurses for each year and do not give the address.
Originally, there was a general part of the register, with supplementary parts for ‘mental’, ‘male’, ‘fever’ and ‘sick children’s’ nurses. These supplementary parts have changed over the years. When searching, check all parts of the register and the late entries list, which sometimes appears at the end of the general part.
Nurses paid an annual fee to be on the register. A nurse on the general part of the register was a state registered nurse (SRN). In Scotland, the term originally used was registered general nurse (RGN). After the 1943 Nurses Act, registration became compulsory. This is still a legal requirement for someone wishing to practice nursing in the UK.
Publication of the registers ended in 1968. The NMC cannot give out any personal information about nurses on their register, under the Data Protection Act 2003.
Roll of nurses
The assistant nurse, later known as the state enrolled nurse (SEN) appeared in 1943. This is not the same level of qualification as an SRN or RGN, but the assistant or enrolled nurse was recorded in the same way in the roll of assistant nurses, also known as the roll of nurses. The GNC kept the roll, set the syllabus for the examinations and approved the schools of nursing within hospitals.
The General Nursing Council for Ireland published registers from 1921. This was replaced in Northern Ireland by the Joint Nursing and Midwifery Council (JNMC) from 1922, which continued to publish registers and later the roll of nurses. The Republic of Ireland registration body is An Bord Altranais (Irish Nursing Board) established by the Nurses Act of 1950 to replace the previous General Nursing Council for Ireland and the Central Midwives Board for Ireland.
Locations of registers and rolls
- GNC England and Wales at the National Archives, Kew, Richmond-upon-Thames. Register of nurses and supplementary registers 1921-1973: reference DT10.
- GNC Scotland at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh. Register of nurses 1921-1983; roll of nurses 1944-1983; register of health visitors 1933-1983: references GNC 12, 13 and 14.
- Cambridge University Library: GNC England and Wales Register of Nurses 1922-68 and roll of assistant nurses 1947-68.
- Oxford Libraries Online (SOLO): GNC England and Wales Register of Nurses 1922-68 and roll of assistant nurses 1948-61; GNC England and Wales Roll of Nurses 1961-68; GNC Scotland Roll of Asst Nurses 1950-66
- Manchester Central Library’s Technical Library: GNC England and Wales Register of Nurses 1946-68: reference 610.73 GI
- Wellcome Library, London GNC England and Wales Register of Nurses 1930-1944 & 1946-1947; suppl. 1948-1950
- Trinity College Dublin: GNC England & Wales Register of Nurses 1967-69; GNC Scotland Register of Nurses 1961-67, GNC England & Wales Roll of Nurses 1967-69, GNC Scotland Roll of Nurses 1961-64 and GNC Scotland Roll of Asst Nurses 1960
- The British Library, London: GNC England and Wales Register of Nurses 1922-68 and Roll of Asst Nurses 1947-8, GNC Scotland Register of Nurses 1957 and Roll of Asst Nurses 1959-64
- National Library of Ireland, Dublin: GNC England & Wales Register of Nurses 1930
- University College Dublin: GNC Ireland Register of Nurses 1921-85
- Public Records Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI): Joint Nursing and Midwives' Council for Northern Ireland/Northern Ireland Council for Nurses and Midwives Register of Nurses 1922-83
RCN Archives holdings
- GNC England and Wales Register of Nurses 1922 to 1924 and 1926 to 1968
- GNC England and Wales Roll of Nurses 1947-1968 with parts of 1947-48 missing
- GNC Scotland Register of Nurses 1945-48, 1948 supplement, 1950, 1955 and 1957-67
- GNC Scotland Roll of [Assistant] Nurses 1946 and 1956-66
- CMB Midwives Roll for Scotland from 1917-68 and handwritten volume 1981-1984
- CMB Midwives Roll 1979-1982
- GNC Ireland Register of Nurses 1939, 1943 and 1945 to 1948. No Roll
- Northern Ireland JNMC Register of Nurses 1943, 1946, 1956 and 1959
- Northern Ireland JNMC Register of Nurses and Roll of Nurses combined 1949 and 1951
- Northern Ireland JNMC Midwives Roll 1959.
The National Archives of Scotland holds early nursing registers, which pre-date the state register:
- HH2/33 Local Government Board (Scotland). Register of trained sick nurses appointed to poorhouse institutions, 1905-1927
- HH2/34 Scottish Board of Health. Register of trained sick nurses appointed to poorhouses institutions, 1906-1930
- HH2/35 Scottish Board of Health. Index to register of trained nurses, 1885 - 1930.
- HH2/36 Scottish Board of Health. Special register of certificated nurses, 1907 - 1923.
- HH2/37 Examination of nurses: Register of candidates. Appointments and subjects passed, 1904 - 1913.