From April next year, the NMC will no longer have nurse representatives elected by the profession. Instead council members will be selected by the NHS Appointments Commission.
But legislation to enable the new system is not expected to be rubber-stamped by MPs until 25 June at the earliest.
Until the Nursing and Midwifery Amendment Order 2008 is approved by the Privy Council, the NMC must proceed according to its current rules, and hold elections for six council representatives for England by 1 August. It had to publicise the elections from 14 May at a cost of around £20,000 for national newspaper adverts around the UK.
Candidates for election must enter nominations by 5 June, but if the legislation goes through as planned, their applications will be scrapped - the NMC would cancel the election and extend current council members' terms until the new system takes effect.
However, if the legislation is delayed, it may not take effect until after the next Parliamentary recess, meaning the elections would go ahead. This would mean the NMC was forced to spend around £400,000 to produce voting papers and cover other costs.
The elected representatives would only be in office from August this year until April 2009. In addition, any current council members who were re-elected would be considered to have served two consecutive terms, disqualifying them from applying for appointment to the council under its new system.
NMC chief executive Sarah Thewlis said: ‘This is one of the most complex and difficult decisions that I have ever had to take at the NMC. The timing of these events has resulted in a series of dilemmas for the NMC and for any nurse, midwife or specialist community public health nurse who decides to stand in the England election in what could be a very short term of office.'
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