A potted history of the NMC and how the code has developed

April 14, 2015

A potted history of the NMC and how the code has developed by Margaret Hazeldine


Lets go back in time……..In order to understand the code I feel a little history is needed to lend it a foundation so bear with me.


According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC 2015) In Britain, a significant development in the medical profession was the Medical Act of 1858 which established the General Medical Council and the Medical Register. This was a turning point as many believed that not only did doctors and surgeon’s need to be registered but also nurses. The call for a register was validated when in 1860 the founding of organised nurse training was becoming more prevalent.


We as nurses I am sure all know of Florence Nightingale and her bravery and determination during the Crimean war as the founder of modern nursing. The NMC (2015) suggests that she however was opposed to any form of parameters being imposed for nursing, her belief in nurses lay in their essential abilities and that these could not be taught, examined nor regulated.


The Royal Collage of nursing (RCN 2015) maintain that by 1887 after much debate from various factions the British Nurses Association (BNA) was formed under the guidance of Ethel Bedford Fenwick, whose remit was to protect the public. In 1899 Mrs Bedford Fenwick played an instrumental part in the setting up of the International Council of Nurses (ICN). She also supported the concept of a General Council to regulate the profession. This was realised in 1919 when  the government set up  the General Nursing Council with Mrs Bedford Fenwick becoming the first name on the worlds first Nursing Register. She believed that the work of nurses was one of humanity the world over.


The NMC (2015) continues that The General Nursing Council was the central support for nurses until 1979 when after again government intervention and pressure from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) whose main concerns revolved around quality and nature of nurse training and the place of nursing within the NHS; The Briggs Report was written and from which came the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Act 1979. For a variety of reasons getting the legislation passed took a few more years after which in 1983 the United Kingdom Central Council (UKCC) was   formed. The UKCC was just one arm of a multitude of regulatory bodies spanning England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, nine in total with no one governing body responsible for the nursing profession as a whole. The UKCC was to stay in place until 2002 when for a number of reasons another name change to what we now know as The Nursing and Midwifery Council.


I have struggled to find factual information on how the code was created or by whom, however all of the above I believe to be as mentioned earlier the foundation for today’s NMC and with it the Code by which we as a profession must abide by. Doing so shows respect and honours those who fought for us to be recognised as a profession in what is a very demanding job both physically and mentally and a true calling.


There have been many changes in healthcare and society since the previous Code was published in 2008. The National Health service (NHS 2012) maintains that The launch of the 6Cs ‘Compassion in Practice’ heralded the call for nurses to re-examine their values and have a voice in what for the past couple of years has seen severe failings in health care; and with it serious damage done to the integrity of our profession regardless of what branch you practice.  The new Code incorporates having to move with the times to include innovation in technology and the use of social media. Also I believe the latest in medicine/drugs and techniques, not to mention on global scale new diseases discovered old ones reappearing. It makes four distinct statements which put’s we as nurses and midwives at the “heart of care”.


Prioritise people

Practise effectively

Preserve safety

Promote professionalism and trust.


Within each statement are the values and standards we need to follow and uphold in order to comply with the Code and ensure when the time comes for revalidation we have the confidence and resources to protect our hard earned PIN! The Code also makes it clear that we are accountable to those receiving care, this lies not only with the nurse or midwife but also with those who work in policy, education and management.


An observation whilst researching this blog from each of the codes that I have managed to locate and read, there has been a common thread, they all seem to say the same thing to me PERSON CENTERED CARE. The NMC have created a lot of resources to enable not only us as a profession but also the public to fully understand the changes and what they mean to us all. This I am pleased to see also includes a very good easy read version of the code ‘Good Care from nurses and midwives’ (2015). As an RNLD I personally believe that having a person centred approach for me is necessary and at the heart of my nursing. Clear communication is essential as If we don’t protect ourselves and the profession first then the code is invalid and the four core statements will not be upheld.



Good care from nurses and midwives http://www.nmc.org.uk/globalassets/sitedocuments/nmc-publications/isl215-15-nurses-midwives-code-easyread-web-acc-final-30mar2015.pdf  [31st March 2015]

http://www.nmc.org.uk/standards/code/ [19th March 2015]

The history of nursing and midwifery regulation http://www.nmc-uk.org/about-us/the-history-of-nursing-and-midwifery-regulation/ [19th March 2015]

Mrs Bedford Fenwick a Restless Geniushttps://www.rcn.org.uk/__data/assets/file/0011/298370/Bedford_Fenwick_ch2_BoN.rtf.  [31st March 2015]

Compassion in Practice http://www.england.nhs.uk/nursingvision [10th  April  2015]

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