New legislation intended to ensure nursing directors and other senior healthcare professionals are held to account for care failings under their watch is one step closer to being passed.
The law, which was formulated in response to poor care at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, will establish new rules requiring professional regulators to consider “public confidence” in fitness to practise cases.
The move is intended to ensure registered nurses who may no longer play a role in direct patient care but can be shown to have damaged public confidence through their actions are sanctioned.
“This is about being transparent and not having a culture where whistleblowers are battered down”
Royal College of Nursing
This could apply to nursing managers who are still registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council but no longer work on the frontline regularly.
The provision is set out in the Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill, a private members bill put forward by Stafford Conservative MP Jeremy Lefroy.
His proposals, which are backed by the coalition government and Labour, would also require the NHS to ensure no avoidable harm to patients.
The bill – also known as the “zero harm bill” – is now being considered by peers in the House of Lords after being passed in the Commons.
The Care Quality Commission will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new legislation if it goes through, it has been confirmed.
The Royal College of Nursing said it backed the bill but added it was unlikely to mean a huge change in the way fitness to practise concerns and cases were handled.
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“The NMC already takes public confidence into account through fitness to practise although this obviously make it stronger by putting it on statute,” explained Will Hardy, the RCN parliamentary affairs manager. “So we don’t feel it would bring about any unjust change in the way their carry out their role.”
The RCN said it also supported the goal of no avoidable harm but stressed this must be implemented in the right way.
“This is about being transparent and not having a culture where whistleblowers are battered down,” said Mr Hardy. “It’s not about scapegoating or blame but learning from mistakes and looking at the reasons why and how to move forward.”
The Nursing and Midwifery Council says the bill has helped raise the profile of professional regulation.
However, the body continues to call for wider legislative change that would strengthen its powers to be pushed forward.