The prime minister has told the Nursing and Midwifery Council it must outline the steps it will take to strengthen its systems of accountability in the light of the Francis report.
Following the publication of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation public inquiry report today, both the NMC and the General Medical Council have come under fire from the prime minister for failing to protect patients at Mid Staffs.
In a speech responding to the report in the Commons, David Cameron said: “We expect the professional regulators to strike off the doctors and nurses who seriously breach their professional code. But in Stafford [Hospital] those expectations were badly let down.”
The NMC was criticised in the Francis report on a number of issues, including its administration, which inquiry chair Robert Francis QC described as “wanting”. Although not the subject of this inquiry, Mr Francis said that “It is imperative in the public interest that this is remedied urgently.”
To help with this, the prime minister said he was going to ask the Law Commission “to advise on sweeping away the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s outdated and inflexible decision-making process.”
Mr Cameron also said that health secretary Jermey Hunt had “invited” the NMC and the GMC to explain what steps they’ll take to strengthen their accountabilty in light of this report”.
The NMC’s chief executive Jackie Smith welcomed the announcement: “This is positive news. We gave evidence to the Law Commission that we need a modern and effective framework. For example, our process is less flexible that that of the General Medical Council, because the laws under which we each operate are different.
“We believe that a new framework should aim for a faster, more flexible and fairer system, which would robustly protect patients and the public interest. Obviously a wide range of stakeholders should be consulted on principles and on details in due course,” she added.
The Francis report also said that to act as an effective regulator of nurse managers and leaders as well as front-line nurses, the NMC “needs to be equipped to look at systemic concerns as well as individual ones”. It recommended it work closely with and share information with the systems regulators in organisations where nurses are active. He says that “Full access to the Care Quality Commission information in particular is vital.”
Francis also recommended that the NMC has its own internal capacity to assess systems and launch its own pro-active investigations where it becomes aware of concerns that may give rise to nursing fitness to practice issues.
“We will take time to consider the report properly and to respond. We owe it to those who died and suffered to learn from the tragedy and the report will be a major focus of our work for years to come,” says Ms Smith.
Other recommendations in the report included the introduction of a system of revalidation similar to that used in the General Medical Council and to raise the regulator’s profile publicly so that patients knew which body they could raise concerns with.