The news of chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes’ sudden exit from the Nursing and Midwifery Council couldn’t have come at a worse time for nursing.
With such high-level media interest in cases such as Stepping Hill and Mid Staffs, not to mention the prime minister’s recent pledge to improve standards of care, this should be a time for the regulator to instil confidence in its registrants.
The public, the media and the government want and need to be reassured that the regulator is a worthy body to be scrutinising nurses. But the NMC itself is now going to be under much scrutiny and the subject of much speculation. Although that is familiar ground. The NMC is no stranger to mismanagement accusations, many of which were revealed in this magazine five years ago.
The profession can’t afford for its regulator to be thought of as having skeletons in its cupboard – even if they don’t really exist. The focus must be on how it handles the register, presides over the standards of nursing and manages fitness to practise cases – and achieving all that has been missing from some previous administrations. It’s little wonder that nurses’ confidence in the institution is shaky. Able to empathise with many nurses because of his previous experience in working in a struggling London trust, Professor Weir-Hughes did manage to gain more support than is usual for someone in that role.
Many are concerned about what a challenge the NMC now faces in finding a replacement who can ensure that standards are set and monitored consistently. And someone who ensures that the way the regulator conducts itself is beyond reproach. That can’t really be too much to ask - can it? We wish them well with their search.
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