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'Distressing' number of neglect allegations raise NMC concerns

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A “distressing” number of allegations of patient neglect by nurses have come to light in a Nursing and Midwifery Council report.

Between April and November 2011, 5,537 allegations of misconduct were received by the NMC, according to papers revealed at its council meeting last week.

Of these, the biggest proportion, 15%, were related to the “neglect of patients”. The second biggest category, making up 11% of misconduct allegations, related to prescribing and drug administration, while 8% were about record keeping.

It was the first time information on allegations had been broken down and presented in this way. Council member Kuldip Bharj said the figures on neglect were “quite distressing” and “of great concern”.

In response, council chair Tony Hazell said: “One case of neglect is unacceptable. However….when we look at these figures in the context of our total register, the vast majority of registrants behave in a very professional way.”

The NMC also identified an additional “area of concern” relating to fitness to practise referrals in a separate report submitted to the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.

It highlighted “an increasing number of serious cases requiring interim order consideration… received during the past couple of months”. Referrals were also increasing in total, though the report does not state whether serious cases are rising at a disproportionate rate. It forms part of the NMC’s submission to the CHRE for its latest performance report on the nursing regulator.

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said scandals like Mid Staffordshire and Winterbourne View meant organisations were more “familiar” with the NMC and were increasingly likely to refer staff to it. Publicity of the cases meant some organisations “feel they have to refer” nurses, she added.

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