The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revised part of its data recording process to include the profession’s legally protected title ‘registered nurse’.
The move follows an open letter from nurses to the ONS – which leads on the collection and publication of statistics in the UK – about the way it records data related to the profession.
The ONS uses a system called the Standard Occupational Classification 2020 (SOC) for data recording, which groups together roles with similar skills, qualifications and experience, based on job titles.
The SOC is used by many organisations and can be used as a basis for national statistics and research.
Today, the ONS confirmed that the SOC’s coding index – which includes subcategories of nursing job roles – will use the legally protected title ‘registered nurse’.
The use of ‘registered nurse’ will replace the use of the term ‘nurse’ – a title that is not protected by law and can be used by anyone.
However, for the time being, the overall SOC category for nursing will still be called ‘nurse’, as it cannot be changed until the next major overhaul of the index is due.
Professor Will Ball, a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and a registered nurse by background, organised a letter earlier this year campaigning for the ONS to change its nursing title use.
The authors were concerned that, under current legislation, anyone can claim to work as a nurse and not aligning with the profession’s legal title of ‘registered nurse’ could “lead to confusion or inaccuracy in official statistics”.
Speaking to Nursing Times today, Professor Ball welcomed the change to the SOC’s coding index but felt there was still “more to do”.
The SOC is fully updated every 10 years, with the most recent version produced in 2020.
Professor Ball highlighted that “only minor changes can be made” in the interim period.
As a result, while individual nursing jobs under the SOC can now use the ‘registered nurse’ title, the overall category for the profession remains as ‘nurse’.
Professor Ball was supported in his campaign by registered nurses Professor Alison Leary, professor of healthcare and workforce modelling at London South Bank University, and Dr Nicola Fisher, a researcher at the University of Nottingham.
Professor Leary has been the driving force behind #ProtectNurse – a recent campaign to protect the title of ‘nurse’ in UK law.
Until the title ‘nurse’ was legally protected “in its own right”, Professor Ball reiterated that “the recording of information relating to occupations should match the current legal situation to ensure that it is as accurate as possible”.
Professor Leary said she was “very pleased” with the change made by the ONS.
“ONS data is important as occupational classification is used by insurance, credit and mortgage brokers and many other areas of everyday life,” she said.
An ONS spokesperson said: “Following stakeholder feedback, we have now revised various group titles in the SOC, including for nurses where we have incorporated ‘registered’ into the titles of several categories of nursing professionals.
“These changes will remain part of the SOC and, subject to any further feedback, we anticipate that they would be carried forward in the next major review due in 2030.”