The NMC has improved its performance since a highly critical report sparked a structural reorganisation of the organisation last year, according to the healthcare super-regulator.
A report from the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, published last week, said the nursing regulator’s governance and culture had improved since it carried out an investigation last year. The investigation was sparked by allegations made in parliament about the regulator’s structure and performance, first revealed by Nursing Times in February 2008.
According to the CHRE’s new report, the length of time nurses wait for fitness to practise hearings has been reduced – one of the criticism levelled against the regulator last year – and the NMC was praised for a new photographic identification system.
The CHRE said: ‘The NMC has received positive feedback from some of its stakeholders, such as the RCM and Unison, and confidence in the NMC appears to be improving. We are pleased with these developments and would like such work to continue.’
However, the CHRE said it still wanted to see collection of ethnicity and diversity data, a further reduction in the time taken to hear cases and the complete implementation of the NMC’s case management system. It also called for the development of an internal quality assurance team in the NMC’s fitness to practise department.
Additionally, the consistency and quality of fitness to practise decisions must be improved and the NMC still needs to improve its customer service, the CHRE said. In particular, the NMC must improve communication with complainants.
RCN head of policy Howard Catton said: ‘It is very encouraging to see the progress that the NMC has made but there are some very significant areas of work still to do.
‘The first is improving consistency and quality of decisions – that is a critical issue. There has been some progress in terms of the length of time that cases are dealt with,’ he added.
Barrie Brown, Unite head of nursing, agreed more work was needed to improve the fitness to practise hearing process. ‘It is about the way the whole process is handled, and the mechanics of it,’ he said.
According to NMC accounts released last week, the regulator’s former chief executive Sarah Thewlis, who resigned last year as a result of the CHRE investigations, received a pay-off of nearly £122,000.
- The NMC last week rejected suggestions that registration fees were going to increase above £76 a year. A statement on its website said: ‘A fees strategy paper is being prepared and [NMC] council will consider this at some point before March 2010 but there are no plans to increase the registration fee at this time.’