Press Release

Nurses and Midwives Bill 2010 – A further step in assuring Patient Safety And Modernises the Regulation of Nursing and Midwifery Professions

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney T.D., today (Thursday, 22 April 2010) announced the publication of the Nurses and Midwives Bill 2010. The Bill provides for a modern statutory framework for the regulation of the nursing and midwifery professions.

The Minister said ‘I am very pleased to publish this draft Bill which follows on the regulatory changes introduced for other health professionals in recent years all of which are aimed at supporting and increasing public confidence in the way we deliver and oversee our health services as we continue to ensure that public and patient safety is at the top of the agenda.

The wide range of changes proposed in this Bill brings the governance of the Nursing and Midwifery professions closer to the regulation of other healthcare professions and follows on from the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005, the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 and the Pharmacy Act 2007.

Nurses and Midwives have shown great willingness and ability to progress and expand their roles to meet the changing needs of patients and clients. We now have two professions which have developed greatly since 1985, when the current Nurses Act was enacted. They command enormous respect from the public and are critical in the delivery of our health service.

The purpose of the new legislation is to enhance the protection of the public in its dealings with nurses and midwives while ensuring the integrity of the practice of nursing and midwifery and recognising the need for due process in relation to dealing with allegations and complaints against nurses and midwives.

It will provide for a modern, efficient, transparent and accountable system for the regulation of the nursing and midwifery professions which will satisfy the public and these professions that all nurses and midwives are appropriately qualified and competent to practise in a safe manner on an ongoing basis.

These objectives are reflected in very practical new measures included in this Bill. For example, both the new Board, Bord Altranais agus Cnáimheaschais na hÉireann (the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland) and the Fitness to Practise Committee will now have a lay majority on them.

‘The National Council for the Professional Development of Nurses and Midwives is being dissolved and its staff will transfer to the Board. This is in line with the rationalisation of state agencies. I would like to thank the National Council for all the excellent development work it has carried out over the last 10 years’ the Minister added.

Key elements of the Bill

The main objective of the new Board, Bord Altranais agus Cnáinhseachais na hÉireann (the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland), is the protection of the public.

The new Board will have 23 members, both elected and appointed, representing nursing and midwifery, educational bodies, members of the public and stakeholders.

Unlike the previous Board, this Board will have a majority of members who are not nurses or midwives.

There will be new streamlined fitness to practise procedures which will include a preliminary proceedings committee which will screen complaints and can refer complaints to the fitness to practise committee or to other procedures if the complaints are not appropriate for the Board’s fitness to practise procedures.

The Bill provides for the resolution of complaints by mediation or other informal means in particular circumstances.

The Bill provides for nurses and midwives to maintain their professional competence on an ongoing basis.

It provides for the Board to establish a competency scheme to monitor the competence of all nurses and midwives in the State.

The Bill recognises midwifery as a separate and distinct profession and provides for the establishment of a Midwives Committee to advise the Board in relation to all matters pertaining to Midwifery practice. It is important to note that childbirth is regarded as a normal physiological event in a woman’s life. Midwives are educated and trained to work with women to provide the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and to provide care for newborns.

The Bill also supports midwives in their continuing professional development through the introduction of clinical supervision to enhance and support midwifery practise through peer review. Clinical supervision is a process which allows the midwife to reflect on and consider her/his practice, identify any gaps in their education or practice so that competencies might be maintained while also ensuring that women and babies are in the care of competent midwives.

The Minister will now bring the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas with a view to enactment at an early date.