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”
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
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.