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Lower NMC fee hangs on change to FtP legislation

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A reduction in fees is theoretically possible

Jackie Smith, chief executive and registrar of the NMC, confirmed that changes to Fitness to Practice (FtP) legislation, could lead to a reduction of fees, in an exclusive interview with Independent Nurse.

Ms Smith said that the NMC is lobbying for a commitment from all political parties towards the legislative reform. The NMC is seeking this commitment before the general election, so that regardless of its outcome, the bill can be tabled. It had received no official commitments, she said, but the political establishment and the DH were 'sympathetic' to the NMC's position.
'It will be at least two years before the effect [of legislative change] is felt, but if we are able to reduce the number of FtP hearings, then we could begin looking at reducing the cost of registration fees,' she said.

Ms Smith said that changing the legislation would directly affect frontline nurses and midwives through fees. 'If there is no change and the number of FtP cases continues to rise, then there is a real risk of another fee increase. We don't want to see the fees being a penny over what they should be.'

In last week's Independent Nurse (The price of nursing, 20 October, p13) Ms Smith said that there was a direct link between a change to the Law Commission Bill and the price of annual registration with the NMC.

The NMC currently spends 80 per cent of its budget on FtP, with every final hearing costing approximately £13,000. The NMC receives approximately 4000 referrals a year. Of these, 1756 progressed to final hearings in 2013-14.

In comparison, the General Medical Council's (GMC) receives over 10,000 referrals a year, but only 241 progressed to the final stage during 2013-14. The GMC operates under a different legislative framework. It has the power to agree undertakings or give warnings at the end of the investigation stage, which reduces the number of final hearings required.

The NMC recently changed its FtP procedures in an attempt to streamline the process but a spokesman said that only a change in legislation would give the organisation the powers it needs to cut the number of FtP hearings.

The recent increase in fees, provoked outrage from nurses and midwives, many of whom are already struggling financially due to the government's decision to freeze pay.

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