The government rejected a proposal to protect the title of nurse in UK law in a parliamentary vote this afternoon.
Dawn Butler, Labor MP for Brent Central, today called for a vote on her amendment to the new Health and Care Bill, which sought to ensure that only people listed in the relevant parts of the Council of nurses and midwives may call themselves nurse.
However, the decision was rejected by Health Minister Edward Argar. He said he could “see the benefit of reassuring and clarifying” in protecting the title of nurse, but did not accept what he described as a “flawed” amendment.
Moments later, 304 deputies voted against this decision, against 240 who expressed their support.
Ms Butler’s proposal is part of the #ProtectNurse campaign, led by Alison Leary, professor of healthcare and workforce modeling at London South Bank University.
As previously stated by Breastfeeding time, she wants the job title ‘nurse’ to be protected under UK law, following several high-profile cases of people abusing it.
Currently, “registered nurse” and “community public health nurse” are protected titles, as are “associate nurse” and “midwife”, but “nurse” alone is not.
The Health and Care Bill – which aims to strengthen collaboration between the NHS, local authorities and healthcare providers to achieve integrated care – is currently under consideration in the House of Commons.
This week, several proposed amendments to the bill were debated, including the one on the protection of the title of nurse.
Ms Butler’s amendment read: “A person may not carry on or carry on an activity under a name, style or title containing the word ‘nurse’ unless that person is registered with the Council of Nurses and Wise Men. -women and registered in subpart 1 or 2 of the register as a registered nurse or in the nurse specializing in community public health part of the register.
An individual who “contravenes” would be “guilty of an offense and liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level four on the standard scale,” adds the amendment.
The clause pointed out that this decision would not prevent the use of titles such as “veterinary nurse”, “dental nurse” or “pediatric nurse”.
“I think it’s dangerous not to put things right today”
Introducing the proposed amendment to the House of Commons today, Ms Butler said it was about “the safety and protection of patients and the public.”
“It’s quite shocking to understand that anyone can call themselves a nurse, whether they have qualifications… or have none, they can actually be called a nurse.
“And as we know, when someone calls themselves a nurse, it gives them a certain position in society by automatically thinking that they know what they are doing.”
She highlighted examples of “tragic and devastating consequences” when people abused the title.
“We have the opportunity to set things right today,” Ms. Butler said. “In fact, I think it’s dangerous not to fix it today.”
However, in response, the Minister of Health, Mr Argar, said, if he could “understand where it came from with his amendment”, that he would not accept it as it is currently drafted.
“I can see the benefit of reassuring and clarifying both patients and professionals,” Argar told MPs. “But we don’t think we can accept his amendment as drafted at this time.”
“We do not think we can accept his amendment as drafted at the moment”
He described it as “flawed in its drafting” and said it did not address the “fundamental challenges” regarding the impact of this change on other professional groups such as dental nurses and veterinary nurses.
However, he assured the house that he would “continue to reflect” on the intention behind the proposal.
In March of this year, the government launched a new consultation on proposals to reform the regulation of health professionals, including nurses and its regulator.
During his response, Mr. Argar said that “any subsequent change” in the title of nurse “could be part of the Council of Nurses and Midwives’ legislative reform agenda.
This was also reported by the Department of Health and Social Affairs during its official response to Professor Leary’s campaign and petition for the move, which was released in July.
Ms Butler had urged Mr Argar to “adopt the amendment today” subject to further amendments, but this was rejected.
A subsequent vote, which went to a division, saw 304 MPs vote against the move, compared to 240 who voted in favor.
Professor Leary said Breastfeeding time it was “disappointing that the government chose not to take this opportunity to protect the public.”
She stressed that she “would return to ‘Plan A'” where the campaign would continue to progress “through regulatory changes”. “Public safety is too important,” added Professor Leary.
Labor Nursing Advisor Ann Keen, who helped bring forward the proposed amendment, was also disappointed with the decision and said Breastfeeding time that the government “should have supported” the appeal. She paid tribute and thanked Ms Butler and those supporting the campaign.