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'NMC faces challenge in replacing outgoing chief'

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.

This week, we’re focusing on helping you to plan your future in nursing. Don’t miss our webchat at 1pm on Wednesday 18 January and career-based content at

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Chat live with the editor and other nurses at every Wednesday at 1pm about this column.

Readers' comments (25)

  • Hmm, makes me wonder why he's stepped down now if it is such a crucial time for nursing though. Might, in that case, end up being a very constructive opportunity for much needed change in the watchers and creating an effective watcher of the watchers.

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  • oh Jenni, what are you on about? I just wish you would leave nursing opinion to nurses.

    judging by all the NT readers comments following another post on the subject it seems he left at a very opportune moment and it is high time for change before it is too late and more damage is done to the profession and its members!

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  • are the nurses registered with the NMC entitled to an explanation from that organisation as to why their leader left? after all they paid his salary!

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  • "oh Jenni, what are you on about? I just wish you would leave nursing opinion to nurses."

    Really? Do you have to be a nurse to have a valid opinion about nursing? If that's the case I may as well stop reading newpapers or watching the news either - it's all full of people giving their views about areas they don't work in but do watch for their jobs.

    I don't agree with what the editor's view said but she's paid to know about nursing so why can't she sya what she thinks?

    I'm not a doctor but I have opinons about doctors all the time and I bet they wouldn't like most of them!

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  • Anonymous | 18-Jan-2012 3:25 pm

    You have expressed your opinion.

    I have expressed mine which was intended for Jenni, as I mentioned at the top.

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  • if you don't want other people to comment on your opinion don't make it publicly - you could always email her if you don't want other people to express opinions on it

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  • Anonymous | 18-Jan-2012 5:50 pm

    thanks for your unsolicited advice.

    I am quite happy for others to challenge my opinions as long as they are not offensive and had this not been the case I would have e-mailed Jenni.

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  • Now, now. The important discussion is getting lost in the mud slinging. Where were we all...Jenni was writing about the NMC chief abandoning his post at the drop of a hat, 'with immediate effect', mid crisis and no explanation or notice. Surely that's worth more energy?

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  • George Kuchanny

    The public do indeed need to be assured that the NMC is fit for purpose. This is the most important statement in the article.

    Currently they are not. Not good for nursing and not good for the NHS when they see nurses suspended for trivia (wearing a small gold crucifix comes to mind) but nothing done at all about Bev Allitt's. Quite unsettling.

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  • What they don't seem to be fit for purpose in is challenging an environment, in which nurses are being made to work, that is causing the harm to patient care. Their remit seems directed solely at the nurses for either not whistlebowing the management or whistleblowing their colleagues.
    This is what needs a strategic review and restructure I would argue

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  • Oh he's gone all of a sudden..didnt even notice!!!! Thats because they DO NOT represent us properly, with strong voice and powerful support.
    Just "Yes" men/women to whatever government is in at the time.
    And i pay £76 per year for the privilage of being a member along with thousands of others...mmm thats a lot of money.
    Also wondering why the rules of giving notice,dont apply here?
    What a mess,no wonder no-one takes us seriously as a profession

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  • It just shows the nurses are not well reprensented by the nmc and the union.

    The nurses are one of the paid employees and yet we pay 2 bodies to represent us . Nurses do not get money for value.

    It make everyone wonder why this person resigned and who is next.
    Please keep the nurses up to date with the nmc progress on this mater.

    Comfort London.

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  • Itt's extraordinary that The Chief Executive of the NMC has walked away overnight after only 2 years without even giving notice. What's going on?

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  • Phillipe Cook | 23-Jan-2012 2:44 pm

    even more extraordinary that that the NMC, on their site, have made a brief statement but without giving any explanation which is presumably owed to its members and the public (or am I wrong?)!

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  • Anonymous | 23-Jan-2012 2:54 pm
    Indeed! Isn't it interesting? Isn't the deafening silence also interesting?!

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  • the silence appears to be an affront to all those on the NMC register!

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  • Phil Dup

    Given the instant resignation I wonder if he recieved just his wages to that point or did he get any form of 'golden goodbye' payments ....... hmmmm - methinks I'll use the Freedom of Information Act to find out what the NMC does in these circumstances.

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  • Phil Dup | 24-Jan-2012 11:57 am

    please share the outcome of your quest.

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  • I am worried nurses confuse a regulator with a union. I think it is important nurses understand the difference between the two. Regulator is there to protect the public primarily but ensuring standards.

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  • Anonymous | 24-Jan-2012 4:38 pm

    I think nurses are perfectly able to distinguish between their regulator and the unions and their different roles!

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