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Fraudulent or rogue nurses employed by up to 200 practices

Exclusive Close to 200 GP practices across the UK are likely to be placing themselves at serious legal and financial risk by unwittingly employing a nurse who is not properly registered, an investigation has revealed.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is in talks with GP leaders ahead of plans to write to PCTs to highlight practices' duty to regularly check registration of nurses they employ.

It is taking action after a report seen by Pulse found most GPs were unaware of their responsibility for checking registration, and an audit of practices across Kent revealed five out of 288 were employing nurses not on the NMC register – potentially invalidating their indemnity.

GPs in the county were instructed to check nurses' registration after it was discovered a healthcare assistant had allegedly fraudulently obtained a qualified nurse's NMC pin number and worked undetected as a nurse for a number of practices in mid-Kent for years. If Kent's rate is representative, there would be around 180 nurses not registered with the NMC across the UK.

Dr John Allingham, a GP in Dover and medical secretary of Kent LMC, 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 NMC website has two separate means of checking registration, a simple pin number check open to the public and an employers' check. Practices are encouraged to register as employers and undertake the enhanced employers' check.

An NMC report details a survey conducted at the RCGP annual conference finding eight out of 10 GPs were ‘unaware they should be checking the registration of the nurses they employ'.

Dr Andrew Mimnagh, a GP in Waterloo, Merseyside, and chair of Sefton LMC, said: ‘I am amazed this many doctors are unaware of their responsibility as employing staff who are not qualified would invalidate any practice indemnity.'

An NMC spokesperson said GPs found to be employing unregistered nurses could face legal action and increased medical insurance costs: ‘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.
‘Nurses may hold qualifications allowing them to prescribe, and GPs should also check these on our register.'

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