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Exclusive: NMC to gain new powers to re-open fitness to practise cases

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is to be granted new powers by the government to allow it to re-open closed fitness to practise cases, Nursing Times has been told by the regulator’s chief executive and registrar.

Jackie Smith told Nursing Times she had been pushing for extra powers since she joined the regulator in 2010. “We are pushing the DH on timelines over the new powers but we think we will get it in by the end of the year,” she said in an interview.

The Department of Health is planning to grant the NMC new legal powers under Section 60 of the 1999 Health Act, which will give the regulator the ability to use case examiners and grant it the power to re-open “no case to answer” decisions.

Investigations closed down early by an investigating committee do not currently go to a fitness to practise panel and cannot be challenged by either the NMC or the Professional Standards Authority, which oversees the regulator’s work.

“We think we will get the powers by the end of the year”

Jackie Smith

The Department of Health said strengthening the NMC was part of its response to the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, and it would consult on the changes in the next few months.

The NMC faced criticism over an early decision to clear a former director of nursing at Mid Staffordshire, after an investigating committee she found had “no case to answer”. Helen Moss, nursing director at the trust between 2006 and 2009, told the Francis inquiry she was aware of staff shortages and a “closed culture” at Stafford Hospital.  

Nursing Times has learned the NMC took legal advice on whether it could re-open

Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith

her case and a recent audit by the PSA concluded an investigation committee had made the wrong decision.

Ms Smith said the NMC was yet to see details on how the review process would work, but noted it would not apply to decisions made before the new powers were introduced – therefore barring a review of Ms Moss’s case.

A DH spokesman said: “We are now working with the NMC on a number of proposals. We are due to consult on this soon and want to legislate as quickly as possible.”

  • Regulators will be able to strike off or discipline nurses and other health workers who cannot communicate clearly in English, if plans announced last week become law. A new draft Bill published by the Law Commission aims to unite the NMC and the other eight regulators covering healthcare, allowing them to work from one legislative framework.

Readers' comments (9)

  • So what? The NMC in general and Jackie Smith in particular are a busted flush: they've proven completely incapable of managing their budgets, being able to protect patients and managing their registrants.

    If the NMC hadn't been so completely and utterly out of touch they wouldn't need these new powers as they would've made the right decisions first time round. So more expense is to be heaped onto nurses to reopen ballsed-up cases? What a disgrace!

    Are these new 'powers' supposed to make for a cogent argument for fees increases? I hope not as you won't fool anyone.

    The only decisions the DH need to make is when they intend to end the embarrassment that is the NMC and what they intend to replace it with?

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  • from reading the many comments it sounds as if it is the NMC which requires tighter regulation. if it is so incompetent why is it still allowed to continue its functions rather than replacement with a more suitable alternative?

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  • "Intentional rounding: a critique of the evidence
    17 May, 2013

    Many of the studies supporting intentional rounding are not robust. Nursing managers need to look less to political obedience and more to the evidence base"

    can't access this one but would like to comment re above statement. Any nurse could have told you this! Please just listen to what they have to say and please send this article and comments to Mr Cameron who started this whole silly caboodle when he was still very wet behind the 'years'.

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  • May be i am wrong, but my understanding as to the rise in my NMC payments for registration to £120 a year is due to the financial burden of the current fitness to practice cases?
    Surely allowing the NMC to re open past cases will mean more staff needed to manage these cases. So how much more am I and my colleagues expected to pay in the future?

    Is the NMC financially viable? Should it sell its London HQ and move to somewhere cheaper?

    1% pay rise for nurses- No chance but the cost of registration keeps escalating!

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  • Regulators will be able to strike off or discipline nurses and other health workers who cannot communicate clearly in English

    It is the incompetence of the NMC to allow nurses who can't speak /write good English onto the register in the first place. It is the NMC who should be punished for this incompetence, not the immigrant nurses, some of whom give excellent examples of how to care to our own home grown nurses.

    It is also the incompetence of the recruiters to recruit staff who can't speak English why are they not taken to task?

    And by gum, this looks like serious racism without a doubt!

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  • Let them start with investigating their own fitness to practise as they currently stand as an organisation. We nurses should take a stand and ensure that each of own MP's understand that we nurses do not think the organisation is FIT for PURPOSE, and demand CHNAGES. Im sick of paying good money to this pack of idiots, when I am paid a measly £12 an hour, when I have more than 30 years nursing experience.

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  • Fitness to practice should start in the NMC backyard 1st !!
    Surely when there are fitness to practice issues an employer ought to have flagged up incompetence in its work force at ground level l have worked in several areas as the previous writers have stated where a there is clearly a language barrier and b the nurse ?? qualified has been placed in a precarious position by employers who then dont support/mentor in order to rectify situation !

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  • The NMC seems to be dangerously barmy and out of control. No wonder a nurse doesn't want to admit even a tiny error- they seem likely to be villified.
    Was the U.K.C.C. really THAT bad - considering the pack of jokers we have now?
    How can we get rid of this bureaucratic, malicious and vindictive juggernaut of regulation/guidance-happy/politically correct bunch of numpties?

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  • we never had any problems admitting any error we made as we were supported in putting it right in order to protect and ensure the safety of our patients. If it was clearly an error with no attempt at a cover up there were no consequences and it was taken to inform improvements in practice and greater care to avoid its repetition. Sad this has now changed, to the detriment of patients and potential risks to the mental health of nurses.

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