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Department of Health raises concerns over NMC governance

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Officials at the Department of Health are have concerns that members of the NMC’s future council may allow their professional background to influence decisions and governance, according to a consultation report.

The concern is highlighted in the concluding remarks of the Department of Health’s consultation report into changes to the NMC constitution order 2008, which supersedes the 2001 order and comes into effect on 1 January next year.

The report states ‘officials are anxious that all the members of the newly constituted council should not see themselves as “representatives” as such of any particular interest, and should see themselves instead as there to do the job of regulating both professions, nurses and midwives, whatever their particular personal background.’

Currently the NMC is made up of 23 voting members, which include members from each of the three parts of the register and also from each of the UK’s four countries.

However, the changes mean the council responsible for overseeing governance of the NMC will have seven registrant members and seven lay members, with no places reserved specifically for nurses or midwives.

The changes to the constitution order laid before parliament at the beginning of the month, have been made to ensure the NMC, along with all regulators, operate more strategically in line with the Department of Health’s white paper, Trust, Assurance and Safety.

According to the Department of Health consultation report, which received 76 responses from organisations and individuals representing nursing, 57% did not support the new council structure and feared a lack of representation.

However, the report said: ‘Despite the strength of feeling in some quarters, nothing has been said that persuades us
to go against this.’

Obi Amadi, Unite/CPHVA lead professional officer for policy and external affairs, said: ‘It is a potential weakness. I would hope that there would be some guidance that comes with the changes which makes sure all of the council members are able to represent all of the disciplines equally.’

The NMC would not comment on the report. In a separate development, the NMC has had to launch a second consultation over a part of the 2008 order, after the Department of Health ruled that fitness to practise committees should only deal with hearings and not have an advisory role.

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