NMC begins 100-day countdown to nursing register centenary

By Gemma Mitchell

Celebrations are being launched to mark 100 years since Ethel Gordon Fenwick succeeded in her hard-fought campaign for professional regulation of nurses in the UK.

The former matron of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London battled for more than three decades from 1887 for the establishment of a register for nurses.

“I’m sure Ethel Gordon Fenwick would be proud of her legacy”

Andrea Sutcliffe

And 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. Her name was the first on the register.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has launched its official 100-day countdown to the centenary with a host of activities under the banner ‘Always Caring, Always Nursing’

Ethel Gordon Fenwick

The regulator will use the milestone to raise awareness of what has been achieved in nursing since 1919, and the difference nurses have made and continue to make to the lives of patients and their family members.

Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC chief executive and registrar, 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.

Nursing and Midwifery Council
Andrea Sutcliffe

“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.”

The celebrations would be the “perfect springboard” into 2020, which has been designated the international year of the nurse and midwife by the World Health Organisation, said Ms Sutcliffe.

The NMC is also planning to launch its new five-year strategy next April.

“The NMC register is a part of our proud history”

Ruth May

Dr Ruth May, England’s chief nursing officer, is supporting the NMC’s celebration of the register.

She 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.”

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, noted how the college came into existence as a result of the campaign for professional registration.

“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,” Dame Donna added.

“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 and social care secretary Matt Hancock said the occasion stood as a reminder of the “expertise and experience which underpin nursing as a profession”.

“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,” he said.

 “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.”

You can find out more about the NMC Centenary campaign here https://www.nmc.org.uk/always-caring-always-nursing/

This article was first published on nursingtimes.net and has been reproduced with permission

Gemma Mitchell is the news editor at Nursing Times.

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