Nurses could in future be struck off if they breach new fundamental standards of care for NHS patients, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has warned in its formal response to the Francis report.
The regulator is reviewing the nursing and midwifery code of conduct to ensure it is aligned with key recommendations from Robert Francis QC’s report into failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
The NMC said last week that it backed Mr Francis’s idea of introducing new fundamental standards of care. Such standards are likely to include rules on patient nutrition and hydration, patients receiving the correct medication and patients not being left in their own faeces or urine, according to the Care Quality Commission.
The NMC said the code would also be changed to reflect a focus on complaints, communication, older people, delegation and a duty of candour.
But it has rejected a key recommendation from Mr Francis that it should proactively launch its own investigations into hospitals where nurses may be guilty of breaching the code.
NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith told Nursing Times: “We will of course deal with individuals, but we don’t have the power to go in [to a trust] and investigate systemic issues. We want to work closer with system regulators.”
She said the NMC will worker closer with the CQC and employers to share information, tackle serious issues and prepare for nurse revalidation in 2015. It will also seek improvements to its wider profile and awareness of its public protection role.
In addition, the regulator is looking to develop better links with trusts to ensure managers identify which cases should be resolved locally from those that require regulatory action. As previously reported by Nursing Times, one of the approaches being considered is attaching NMC liaison officers to trusts.
Speaking at a press conference last week, Ms Smith said the NMC did not believe it needed extra funds to meet the aims of its response to the Francis report, though she said the registration fee would be reviewed in March 2014.
“We take Robert Francis’ report and recommendations extremely seriously and what he said about us we accept unreservedly,” she said.
Ms Smith also defended the NMC’s record on fitness to practise decisions, which she said could be reviewed by the Professional Standards Authority.
However, she acknowledged there was still an issue around fitness to practise panels making judgements based on a nurses’ behaviour up to the day of their hearing, rather than purely on the day of the incident that the hearing related to.
“I accept the longer it takes us to investigate something there is an issue around the point at which someone turns up at a hearing and says they have learned from their mistake etc, but that is the law,” she told Nursing Times.
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