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Nursing and Midwifery Council yields to challenge over pregnancy and sex discrimination

Nursing and Midwifery Council yields to challenge over pregnancy and sex discrimination

NHS Nursing Regulator has changed one of its most fundamental rules following a challenge from a trainee nurse on the grounds of both direct and indirect discrimination.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has removed its strict 5-year deadline for the completion of nursing courses after a female trainee prepared a legal challenge on the policy, on the basis that it breached the Equality Act 2010.

Nurse B, who wishes to remain anonymous, was unable to complete her course of study within the 5-year period due to three pregnancies and suffered pregnancy related illnesses.  Her University debarred her from continuing her studies because of the NMC regulation.

After the challenge was put forward by lawyers the NMC conducted a consultation amongst nurses and midwives and has now announced the blanket application of the time period would be removed from its rules.

We acted on behalf of Nurse B and wrote a pre litigation letter to the NMC setting out the grounds for the challenge. We said that Article 9(2)(a)(i) of the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001 (as enforced through the standards for pre-registration nursing education) directly discriminated against Nurse B because she was only unable to comply because of her pregnancies. We went further stating the inflexible way the NMC applied the policy indirectly discriminated against women who might become pregnant.

Following the NMC review it is now left in the hands of individual educational establishments to interpret the rule on a case-by-case basis. The University has since reinstated Nurse B onto her course.

Nurse B said, “I’m delighted I can continue my nursing course now the NMC have seen sense on this issue.  It’s always been my dream to be a nurse and I’m hoping to specialise in oncology after I’ve qualified.”

It is astonishing that the 5-year rule and the inflexible way it has been applied by the NMC has survived so long without a challenge. 

Matthew Wyard, the lawyer conducting the case for us said, “I’m hoping that Nurse B’s success will benefit many other student nurses, men or women, who find themselves in difficulties in the future.”

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