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NMC concerns over potentially fraudulent nurse registrations

28 June 2023. Published by Shireen Hussain, Paralegal

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is contacting more than 500 professionals who trained abroad to determine whether they could have gained fraudulent or incorrect entry to the register after unusual and concerning data emerged from one its testing sites.

The NMC is the independent regulator for nurses and midwives in the UK. By promoting professional standards for healthcare workers, the NMC aims to provide safe and effective nursing to all. Last year, more than 50,000 nurses joined the register, almost half of whom are internationally educated.

In early May 2023, concerns arose regarding the validity of test results at a centre in Ibadan, Nigeria. An investigation identified possible fraudulent or incorrect entries to the NMC register.  

To ensure professionals from abroad have the correct skills to provide care in the UK, they must complete a two-stage test of competence before joining the NMC register – a computer-based test in their home country and a practical test in the UK. Pearson VUE, which runs the computer-based test of competence programme on behalf of the NMC, alerted the regulator of ‘anomalous’ data at the Nigerian test centre. The results of more than 500 nurses and midwives working in the UK are now under scrutiny and testing at the centre is currently suspended.

No determinations have yet been made on the fitness to practise of the nurses in question, however, the NMC will write to the relevant individuals to advise them about the ongoing investigation. Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive of the NMC, reported that "Data from one test site in Nigeria is unusual and concerning. We have regulatory processes which we will now follow and, if necessary, we can refuse registration or remove people from our register to protect the public and people who use health and care services".

Whilst an unusual set of circumstances, these events nevertheless serve as an important reminder to all healthcare organisations to ensure that staff demonstrate the correct skills and knowledge. There have been several instances in recent years of unqualified individuals posing as nurses, which has highlighted the need for organisations to  implement robust screening processes and regular monitoring. To fail to do so may cause problems in terms of insurance cover.

In addition, GPs must be aware of their duty to check the registration of the nurses they employ in accordance with the Royal College of General Practitioners guidelines. If found to be employing unregistered nurses, GPs face legal action and, again, insurance cover may be impacted.  GPs and other healthcare organisations can access the NMC's free employer confirmation service to check a nurse's current registration status and conditions of practice.