There were 131 potential cases referred to the regulator in the 12 months leading up to the end of March this year, compared with 244 cases in the previous year and 308 in the year before that, according to statistics published by the NMC.
Allegations from other sources, including employers and the police, have remained largely static, suggests the regulator’s annual report on fitness to practise, presented at an NMC council meeting last week.
However, council members said it was too early to explain what had caused the fall in allegations of unfitness to practise from the public, though concerns were raised that it had more to do with barriers to reporting than an improvement in practice.
Lay council member Donald Pennington said: ‘In absolute terms there are much fewer referrals from the public than in previous years.
‘I would just like some analysis back on this – if there is anything putting off the public, we should know about it,’ he added.
NMC president Nancy Kirkland added: ‘We do need to look at why this has happened. We can’t make assumptions at the moment. Until we find evidence as to why, then there is a risk that we could jump to conclusions about this.’
Overall, there were 1,487 allegations received by the regulator against nurses and midwives in 2007–2008. This figure equates to around 0.2% of the total number of people on the register.
This compares with 1,624 the year before – a decrease of 8.4%. Only 58 of cases heard by a professional conduct committee last year resulted in a nurse or midwife being struck off the register, a drop from 67 in 2006–2007 and 128 in 2005–2006.
Of the total allegations, the top three types made against nurses were dishonesty (17%), patient abuse (14%) and failure to maintain records (10%).
The overwhelming majority, 85%, of referrals in the UK came from England. Just over 8% of referrals came from Scotland, 4% from Wales and 2% from Northern Ireland.