Government ministers look set to be made responsible for selecting the next chair of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, following a breakdown in the appointments process.
It emerged today that the Appointments Commission, which has been leading the search to fill the post, has abandoned the task, leaving the regulator’s long-term leadership in further doubt.
A public meeting of the NMC’s council today heard that the Appointments Commission had stopped its process in light of the critical review of the regulator by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, published earlier this month.
Instead of the commission, the meeting heard, it had been decided that the appointment would now me made by the Privy Council. The announcement was made in a statement from the Department of Health presented at the meeting.
The Privy Council – traditionally an advisory body to the sovereign – is made up of current and former government ministers. It will make the appointment with advice from the DH, the DH statement said.
Following the announcement, senior NMC staff and council members complained that the organisation had already spend £62,000 on developing a job description and other work on the recruitment process.
NMC acting chief executive Jackie Smith said the job description and appointment process had been agreed with the DH and Appointments Commission, following the CHRE’s interim report earlier this year. She said: “We are eager to resolve this as quickly as possible.”
A total of 44 candidates had applied for the role of chair, reduced down to a shortlist of eight, before the decision to abandon the search was made last week.
Acting chair of the council Judith Ellis described the situation as “unacceptable” and council member David Pyle said the situation was an “absolute mess and a disgrace”.
Council member Lorna Jacobs said: “It is fairly alarming that this has been derailed. If the Privy Council chooses a process that is not open and transparent then council members will have to take a view as to whether they can have confidence in a chair that is appointed in that way.”
Council member Jane Tunstall said the NMC had acted in “good faith” adding: “We should send the bill for £62,000 to [health secretary] Andrew Lansley.”
Unison’s head of nursing Gail Adams said the appointment process was in “uncharted waters” but she stressed: “There is an issue about transparency but we mustn’t get lost in the process, the most important thing is to get the right person and that the NMC survives.”
Ms Ellis said the NMC would press ahead with its plans to improve in the wake of the CHRE report and that a strategy day planned in October would go ahead.
She said: “We need to keep moving forward, we can’t afford not to.”
The CHRE report said the regulator had failings “at every level”.