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Worry grows as second senior nurse leaves NMC


Concerns have been raised about a lack of nursing leadership at the top of the Nursing and Midwifery Council after it emerged another senior nurse had quit the troubled regulator.

Nursing Times has learnt that NMC director of standards and registration Roger Thompson has resigned.

A learning disability nurse by background, Mr Thompson had been with the NMC and one of its predecessors, the English National Board for nursing, midwifery and health visiting, since 1995.

The NMC declined to give a reason for his departure, which preceded that of former chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes, whose resignation was announced on 12 January.

Their departure leaves director of education Rita Newland as the only member of the NMC’s executive team with a nursing background.

Director of fitness to practise Jackie Smith has been appointed interim chief executive, while assistant director of policy and standards Katerina Kolyva is acting up in Mr Thompson’s role. Neither have been on the nursing register.

Royal College of Nursing head of policy Howard Catton told Nursing Times it was “crucial” there was “strong professional nursing leadership” as part of the NMC’s senior team.

Unison head of Nursing Gail Adams said: “There is an insufficient number of nurses at the NMC at a senior level…registrants will be concerned whether they have an understanding of the issues.”

She also criticised the regulator for not formally disclosing Mr Thompson’s resignation on 2 December.

Ms Adams said Unison had a good relationship with the interim leaders but would want to see a nurse in the director of standards and registration post, and a more representative board with either the chair or chief executive a registrant.

A spokeswoman said the NMC would be reviewing its “arrangements” for the standards and registration post later in the year.

As revealed by Nursing Times last week, the NMC has been placed under review by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence. Its review is expected to focus on the NMC’s failure to clear a backlog of fitness to practise cases.

An NMC spokesman said its project work had been halted and was “under review”.

This includes its review of the third part of the register for health visitors and other specialist community staff.

Ms Adams said it was right for the NMC to “park” some projects and focus on improving fitness to practise delivery in the short term.

An audit of the NMC in November by the CHRE found there were still “areas of significant weaknesses” in its handling of cases.

Alison While, associate dean at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London, said she hoped the review would help the NMC to reflect on what its “core mission” should be.

She said there was a risk that extending its role, for example by regulating healthcare assistants, could distract the NMC from its main role of licensing nurses and midwives.

However, others expressed concern about the delay to the review of the third part of the register.

Unite lead professional officer for health visiting Obi Amadi told Nursing Times it was “disappointing”, as it was an important part of plans to expand the health visiting and school nurse workforce.

In a speech last autumn, Professor Weir-Hughes said the third part of the register was a “shambles” and in urgent need of reform.

He was also an outspoken supporter of the mandatory regulation of HCAs, a policy not supported by the CHRE or the government. The NMC “clarified” its position on HCA regulation in a letter to Nursing Times this month, noting that its council had not formally agreed to pursue it as a policy.

Senior nurses from organisations that work closely with the NMC told Nursing Times they had not been surprised to learn of Professor Weir-Hughes’ departure, as they had been aware of tensions within the NMC, one of which was HCA regulation.

Chair of health services research at Southampton University Peter Griffiths said the NMC’s interest in HCA regulation had been unwelcome in “certain circles”.

“They may have left themselves open to some criticism,” he said. But he added that he thought wherever “nursing work was being carried out”, including that by HCAs, it should be considered a “matter for the NMC”.


Readers' comments (32)

  • The NMC needs representation from the shop floor - nurses who have to cope with the reality of nursing today not who live in cloud cuckoo land.

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  • you can't have our leaders at the NMC just walking out without giving any reasons. we have paid to employ them!

    I feel sorry for the HCAs and all the controversies surrounding their position. how can anybody in a ward team work well in such an unstable environment and with so many uncertainties?

    Instead of having a third part to the register why can't the nmc have separate branch dedicated wholly to standardising the training and registering all those wishing to work as nursing support workers on the wards so that they can have a safe and properly regulated profession of their own instead of being treated as underlings.

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  • This is very worrying,already there are too many non-nursing or medical people in high brow positions,determining what health care needs.
    If all nurses refused to pay their registation fees till suitable mangement are in place,that would cause more need for a shake up than any strike action ever could.
    What would they do suspend us all??????
    Some of our precious pay gives these people their high salaries,they leave at a drop of a hat and none of us no why.
    The NMC is my representative,sets standards i have to work by,i want to know whats going on.
    Tell you what i'll do the job,my background is purely nursing,frontline nursing cant make more of a mess than whats happened already!!
    Hey that would be novel a nurse runnning the NURSING and MIDWIFERY council,mmm thinking out the box here.

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  • The NMC has been in trouble since the abolition of the ENB and the other UK counterparts and the change from UKCC to NMC so this is not new. AS FOR PUTTING the Director of fitness to practise Jackie Smith in charge - how come? It is her section that is being criticised for not performing on the backlog of cases. It i s disgraceful as some of these nurses will need to be stopped from nursing as found unfit and so the NHS will not be paying them on suspension but some will be able to return as either found fit to practise and can rejoin the workforce or need retraining of some sort. By the way, we do not work on a shop floor. We are professional nurses. Using terms like this makes nursing sound like a production line or ordinary business. YES, we need experienced nursing professionals at the NMC. YES, it would be good to know why the top nursing brass have left but presumably there may be legal or personal reasons why they have gone which can't be revealed. YES it would be good to know. Is it rattle throwing or disagreements working on behalf of nursing as a profession? Want to be treated like professionals then we need to write and speak like them to gain respect which is at an all time low (not to mention low paid and low profile.) Likewise, why pay and treat nursing support staff as second class workforce? Why not train them properly towards a fully recognised nurse and just not learning a task and doing it in isolation? This harps back to the task allocation format of nursing in the old days! I think we should have a two tier level of nursing again but then those who want to upgrade to a first level trained nurse can do so not like the previous SEN level, those that don't can remain as second level but all levels of nurses will be trained in a more holistic and standard way and actually act on nursing assessment. Let's face it we have so many less than adequate nurses who are meant to be trained so why not give everyone a decent training and pick out the good ones and get rid of the less than good? There would still be room for nursing assistants who could assist with the hands on and other ward tasks.

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  • cheryl mundur | 24-Jan-2012 11:54 am

    I agree. if you have never trained and worked in nursing and on the front line with patients how can you possibly know what the needs are, except at a theoretical and analytic level, which in no way reflects the reality - and all that for far more pay than an RN! The whole health service regulation and management is totally topsy-turvy to the serious detriment of the patients it is supposed to be caring for and to the staff employed to do the caring!

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  • If they have left suddenly (2 of them!!!!!!) for personal/legal reasons just say so without disclosing of course,we'd understand that,but to say nothing is bound to make us wonder what is going on.

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  • I would also agree the NMC is an organisation for 'Nursing' how can you have people with no or minimal nursing background in charge. Yes you need experience in senior positions or management but without grass roots/shop floor experience how can you have any idea of what matter to nurses/midwives.
    As cheryl says we pay their salaries we should have and must have a say in who they are and how they work.

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  • The NMC has not behaved as it should since it was set up in a different way. This happened just before the discussions to introduce Project 2000. Believe or not this Project 2000 was a pilot and supposed to be evaluated before being the status quo for nurse education.
    However, it never was - thanks to the UKCC/NMC and nursing practice has gone significantly downhill ever since.
    There seems to be absolutely no champion for value based nursing education and practice - the RCN changed its direction during the Chairship of Eirlys Warrington and became focussed on trade union activities. Other than few knee jerk publications on professional issues after other organisations and government have raised concerns, it really is not the lead for nursing anymore - in fact no UK organisation is.
    I have absolutely no respect for the NMC, its activities or its people as they have totally wasted my fees.
    I intend to ask for my money back as I have just paid it!!

    I would like to respond to the person above who said that "already there are too many non-nursing or medical people in high brow positions,determining what health care needs."
    Sadly the Nursing Profession has not behaved like a true profession and recognised the role of the observer - the public - in their experience of nursing practice. Until Nursing does that - it's voice will be become weaker and weaker.
    I greatly value the role of 'non-nurses' and 'medical' and "high-brow' and the public in their perceptions of good care. Without these views how on earth would I know that I was trying to meet their needs appropriately and with compassion?

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  • i agree with anon 12.40 re the value of non-nursing etc but i dint think they should be in charge

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  • Nurse told what to do by arrogant Prime Ministers, dubious Health Ministers; being led by rancorous toffee nosed medics; now the registering body is being taken over by traffic wardens; whatever next?

    Someone needs to syringe the doughnuts out of the ears of these people and get some sense into the organ they keep hidden under their highbrow facist skulls.

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