There could be nearly two hundred unregistered or fraudulent nurses working in GP (general practitioner) practices throughout the United Kingdom, according to a new report issued by the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council). The Council is preparing a letter to be sent to primary care trusts urging practices to properly check nurses' registrations. Nurses should be registered with the profession's regulator.
Recently, authorities arrested a woman in Kent for allegedly pretending to be a registered, qualified nurse.
According to a well-known GP medical journal, Pulse, the majority of general practitioners are not aware that it is their responsibility to check nurses out. An audit of practices in Kent found that out of 288 primary care trusts, 5 had nurses on their payroll who were not NMC registered. Having an unregistered nurse working in a practice could invalidate its medical insurance.
GPs throughout the UK have been advised to carry out checks on nurses' registration after a healthcare assistant had acquired a qualified nurse's NMC pin number illegally. She had worked as a nurse in several mid-Kent practices for several years undetected.
The Pulse report has calculated that there are probably at least 180 unregistered nurses working in GP practices in the UK, if Kent is representative of the rest of the country.
Dr John Allingham, a GP in Dover and medical secretary of Kent Local Medical Committee, said:
"The fact this person allegedly worked as a nurse for so long without being one has caused us an enormous amount of work as everyone who had a smear with them or other procedure has had to be contacted and advised to have it redone. I would strongly recommend all GPs check their nurses' registration annually."
The Nursing and Midwifery Council informs in its report of a survey it carried out at the Royal College of General Practitioners annual conference which revealed that 80% of GPs did not know they had to check the registration of the nurses they took on.
Dr Andrew Mimnagh, a GP in Waterloo, Merseyside, and chair of Sefton Local Medical Committee, said:
"I am amazed this many doctors are unaware of their responsibility as employing staff who are not qualified would invalidate any practice indemnity."
GPs who are found to be employing unregistered nurses may face legal action, as well as higher medical insurance premiums, a spokesperson for the NMC said:
"Employers have a responsibility to ensure staff hold the necessary qualifications and registration. GPs must ensure nurses are registered before they begin work and regularly check their registration status."
Following the arrest of an allegedly fraudulent nurse in Kent, 300 female patients who had had smear tests with her are being contacted and offered retests, while over 1,000 individuals who were vaccinated are being offered additional treatment. A 46-year-old woman from mid-Wales has been arrested by Kent Police on suspicion of fraud.
Editor of Pulse, Richard Hoey, said:
"It's important GP practices are able to assure patients all the nurses on their books have been through a thorough checking process and are properly registered. The consequences of employing a nurse who is not registered are very serious - stress for patients, increased workload for GPs, and potential legal costs for practices if medical insurance is invalidated."
Written by Christian Nordqvist