Patient safety at risk due to increase in staff without nurse qualifications working in registered nurse roles, warns RCN

The College has warned that the practice “leaves patients without professional nursing care and compromises safety.”

James McKay
9 June 2021
BME Patient with nurse

Employers are opening up registered nurse vacancies to people without registered nursing qualifications.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has today provided a stark warning over the growing instances of people without registered nurse qualifications being employed for registered nursing roles.

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An investigation by the union found that employers were opening up registered nurse vacancies to people without registered nursing qualifications, or from different professional backgrounds, including physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

The RCN says that 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.

Allied Health Professionals.

According to the RCN, 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.

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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”.

The College has said that while it is committed to multidisciplinary working in health and social care, the practice “leaves patients without professional nursing care and compromises safety.”

The news comes amid growing calls to legally protect the term “nurse”.

A risk to patient care.

“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.

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“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.”

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