RCN statement calls for employers to value the role of the registered nurse

Patient safety could be compromised if risky recruitment practices continue.

Nurse treats COVID-19 patient

The RCN is warning against growing instances of people without registered nurse qualifications being employed for registered nursing roles – a practice which leaves patients without professional nursing care and compromises safety.

Substantial academic evidence shows that the education and specialist skill of nurses registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) improves patient safety – including outcomes and mortality.

The RCN is committed to multidisciplinary working in health and social care, however many reviews – including the Francis report into the Mid Staffordshire crisis – highlight that patient safety is at risk when the right nursing care and nursing leadership is not in place.

We’ve found examples where employers have formally opened registered nurse vacancies to people without registered nursing qualifications, or from different professional backgrounds, including physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

The adverts often carry a caveat that post holders need to be registered either with the NMC or the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC).

A recent advert for a matron post responsible for older people’s mental health and learning disability services was open to a “registered professional clinician with demonstrable evidence of working at senior level” but did not say it required NMC registration.

Another ad for a band 5 staff nurse required the post holder to be an “RGN/RN or hold an equivalent Allied Health Professional Qualification”.

“Filling registered nurse vacancies with those who are not registered nurses is not filling those vacancies,” said RCN Acting General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen. “Acting in this way not only leads to vacancies elsewhere but also carries a risk to patient care.

“The very fact that employers are needing to fill nursing posts in this way should set alarm bells ringing with ministers that cannot be ignored and spur them into a proper investment in the long-term future of the nursing workforce.”

Chair of the RCN Professional Nursing Committee Rachel Hollis added: “We need to see all employers in health and social care ensure that where a vacancy exists for a registered nurse, this is open to registered nurse applicants only.

“We respect and value the role of all health care professionals in the multidisciplinary team, but we believe that only registered nurses, and our nursing support worker colleagues, can deliver safe and effective nursing care.”