European Union Nursing Documents

Scope and Content

Documents relating to the harmonisation of professional standards of nursing practice in the European Union, primarily 1977 to 2000

Administrative / Biographical History

The signing of the first European Directives on professional standards of training for nurses responsible for General Care, nos. 452 and 453 on 27 June 1977, was intended to allow for free movement of qualified professionals throughout member states of the European Economic Community (now the European Union) after due process of harmonising such standards. The collection consists of two series of documents relating to the creation of harmonised standards of nursing practice during the last three decades of the 20th century, up to the point when the EEC Advisory Committee on Training in Nursing, having completed its primary work, was put into abeyance, though the EEC Standing Committee of Nurses continues its activities. They have been assembled by two professionally qualified nurses who represented the UK in the process, Dame Sheila Quinn and Thomas Keighley.

Series 1 (MS 269) relates to the work of Dame Sheila Quinn, DBE, BSc., FRCN, FHA, SRN, SCM, STD, who was President of the Royal College of Nursing 1982-86 and Regional Nursing Officer, Wessex Regional Health Authority 1978-83, and who served as UK Member of the Permanent Committee of Nurses in Liaison with the EEC (PCN) formed in 1971, subsequently referred to as the Standing Committee (SCN), of which she also served as President 1983-91. The Committee consisted of one nursing representative from each member country, and its formal link to the European Commission gave it the right to approach the Commission for information, offer advice to it and be consulted by the Commission. Formal negotiations on nursing directives had begun between government delegations in 1975, with the directives finally being signed in June 1977 and with compliance being required in a further two years’ time. In May 1979 Dame Sheila was elected the first President of the EEC Advisory Committee on Training in Nursing (ACTN), a post rotated between three serving presidents on an annual basis, each serving for one year at a time. The documents consist of three files of papers relating to her work with the SCN and the ACTN.

Series 2 (MS 290) relates to the work of Thomas Keighley, BA, SRN, RMN, Dip. Nursing, Director of the Institute of Nursing, University of Leeds, 1993-96 and Director of International Development, School of Healthcare Studies, University of Leeds, 1997-2001, and consists of files of official documents and correspondence relating to his membership from 1990 of the Advisory Council on Training in Nursing (ACTN), the body for which Dame Sheila Quinn served as one of the Presidents. This body was established under the Council of the European Communities Directives legislation relating to professional standards in nursing of 27 June 1977, and was intended to consider and make recommendations on the training of nurses responsible for General Care. The ACTN was appointed in January 1978 by the Council of Ministers, its remit being to consider basic (pre-registration) General Nurse training across the European Union. It consisted of three members for each EU country, serving for three years, with observers from the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), which with the exception of Switzerland agreed to the implementation of all EU directives including those affecting nursing. The Committee therefore consisted initially of 54 representatives plus officers from the Commission, with the national representatives covering the areas of Nursing Practice, the Education Bodies and the Competent Authority of each. The Committee met in Plenary session initially once and later twice a year in Brussels, and had the power to propose directives, make recommendations and give opinions. It also had usually two working parties consisting of one representative from each country meeting on occasions additional to the Plenary sessions. Subsequently issues involving Specialist Care were also addressed: paediatric and psychiatric nursing, the care of patients with cancer, and of the elderly. From 1994 the working parties considered two major issues, the reform of the Annex to the General Nursing Directive, which identified the content of General Nurse training, and the development of Specialist Nurse training. Impetus was added to the first piece of work by two separate initiatives, the report of the Council of Europe on the education of nurses, and the Commission's own interest in the Simplified Legislation in the Internal Market (SLIM), intended to facilitate free movement of professionals between member countries on the basis of educational qualifications.

As noted above, Tom Keighley was appointed to the ACTN in February 1990. In addition to the files relating to mainstream Plenary activities there are in the collection documents relating to working parties on training in the Care of the Elderly, the Committee of Senior Officials of Public Health of the EU and the Standing Committee of Nurses of the EU, together with relevant documents produced by other bodies such as the Royal College of Nursing. Some chronological refiling apart, the documents have been left in the order in which they were received; certain undated documents have been left in their original positions in the files in order to indicate their approximate date of creation.


Chronologically within series/section

Access Information

Available to all researchers, by appointment

Acquisition Information

Donated by Dame Sheila Quinn and Thomas Keighley

Other Finding Aids

Listed in outline

Archivist's Note

Description prepared by Jacky Hodgson

Conditions Governing Use

According to document