By: 16 September 2019
Always Caring, Always Nursing: Celebrating 100 years of nursing regulation

The countdown is on – it’s officially 100 days until the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) celebrates a century of nursing regulation.

Launched on Saturday 14 September 2019, ‘Always Caring, Always Nursing’ celebrates a century of professional pride and awareness about the vital role nurses working across all health and care settings hold in our society.

Regarded as the UK’s most trusted profession, nursing touches the lives of people and communities everywhere in an astonishing variety of roles. The pride of being a registered nurse shines through the testimonies of professionals on the register.

But the road to regulation was not straightforward and it was the relentless effort of one person that made it happen.

Ethel Gordon Fenwick, former matron of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, spent 32 years campaigning for the state registration of nursing. Her objectives were to establish a compulsory register of nurses, to standardise training, improve patient safety, and advance the profession.

On December 23, 1919, after numerous false starts, she watched from the public gallery in the House of Commons as the Nurses Registration Act was passed.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said: “A century on from the introduction of nurse registration, I’m sure Ethel Gordon Fenwick would be proud of her legacy and the fantastic contribution nurses make every day in our communities.

“So much has changed in the last 100 years with nurses working in ways and settings Ethel couldn’t have dreamed of.  But what has remained constant is their dedication to the people they support in health and social care and the pride they have in being a registered nurse.

“It’s a great privilege and responsibility for the Nursing and Midwifery Council to regulate such an important and trusted profession.  We want to use our anniversary to reflect on all that has been achieved since 1919 and show how nurses have made and continue to make a difference for people using services and their families.

“Our anniversary celebrations are the perfect springboard for the WHO Year of the Nurse and the Year of the Midwife in 2020 and our own development as we introduce our new five year strategy next April.”

Ruth May, England’s Chief Nursing Officer, said: “The NMC register is a record of the many talented and dedicated nurses and midwives who have enriched the lives of England’s patients and the public over the past 100 years and is a part of our proud history.

“It shows our diverse make up, and as the biggest professional register in the world, it’s also a reminder that these professions truly are the backbone of the NHS.

“I am delighted to join the NMC in celebrating the countdown to this fantastic milestone.”

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: “The Royal College of Nursing has worked with the NMC closely since its inception to support the professional registration of nurses.

“The Nursing Registration Act was passed in 1919 after decades of campaigning by nurses. In fact, it was the campaign for professional registration that saw the birth of the RCN in 1916.

“From the first registrants through to today’s nurses and midwives, the NMC has been there setting and constantly reviewing the professional standards to ensure the profession and its nurses provide current, evidence based care that ensures good outcomes for patients.

“Nursing and midwifery have both undergone many changes during the past 100 years and no doubt will continue to do so over the next 100 years.”

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “The dedicated nurses at the heart of our NHS provide compassionate care in some of the most challenging and momentous times of our lives and we are incredibly grateful for everything they do.

“My grandmother worked in the NHS as a nurse, and I know how much commitment and devotion nurses put in to caring for their patients every day and night.

“In celebrating this important milestone we rightly recognise the expertise and experience which underpin nursing as a profession so patients can trust that they are receiving the best possible care.

“I’d like to thank the NMC for their continued work in upholding these standards and I am committed to backing the nurses of the future to develop rewarding and fulfilling careers in our health and care system.”