GPs are being urged to check that the nurses working in their practice have up to date registration with the regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
The regulator said there had been 56 cases identified in the past year of nurses who had been working at a GP practice while their registration had lapsed, so were working illegally.
A joint initiative between the NMC, the BMA and the RCGP is designed to remind UK doctors that they have a responsibility to ensure the nurses they employ are registered with the NMC in addition to the nurses themselves having a responsibility.
The BMA’s GP committee (GPC), the RCGP and the NMC said nurses could not legally practice in the UK unless they were registered with the regulator.
The aim is to raise awareness about GPs’ responsibility as employers to regularly check the registration status and qualifications of nurses on an annual basis.
GP practices that do not perform the required checks could face contract sanctions and nurses may be liable for prosecution for claiming to be registered when they are not.
The NMC’s free employer confirmation service allows GPs to check a nurse’s current registration status and details of any conditions of practice, cautions or suspensions issued as a result of fitness to practise proceedings.
Professor Judith Ellis interim chair of the NMC said: “As the regulator for the UK’s 670,000 nurses and midwives, it is the NMC’s duty to ensure the health and wellbeing of patients and the public. 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.”
Dr Laurence Buckman chairman of the GPC said: “GPs will recognise the importance of making sure the qualifications of all their practice staff are properly checked before they are appointed. If they weren’t aware of the NMC’s free confirmation service already we would recommend they use it as it's a valuable resource.”
Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP chair, 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 – and the NMC enables practices to do this quickly and effectively.”