General practice partners across the UK are being reminded of their responsibility to ensure the nurses they employ are registered with the NMC.
The BMA, Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the NMC have written a joint letter to practices, to raise awareness of their responsibility as employers to regularly check the registration status and qualifications of nurses.
The letter has been circulated by the DH in England, and is expected to be distributed by the equivalent health bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland soon.
Last year, an audit of 288 practices across Kent found that five were employing nurses not on the NMC register. In one case, a 46 year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of gaining employment as a registered nurse with without the appropriate qualifications. Her case is due to be heard next month.
If figures were extrapolated, this would equate to around 180 unregistered nurses working in general practice across the UK.
NMC interim chair Professor Judith Ellis interim said: 'Nurses and midwives cannot legally practise in the UK unless they are registered with the NMC. A nurse practising without registration puts themselves and their patients at risk.'
RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada, said: 'Practice nurses play an invaluable role in the primary care team, but nurses cannot legally practise in the UK unless they are registered with the NMC.
'Practices must ensure that anyone appointed to a nursing post holds the necessary qualifications and effective registration with the NMC before starting employment.'
The NMC operates a free confirmation service to allow general practices to quickly check the status of their nursing staff.