The Department of Health has revealed that it intends to publish plans to overhaul professional regulation in the autumn.
The move emerged last week when the DH told the Nursing and Midwifery Council to “urgently review” the way it treats patients and bereaved families.
“Issues raised in this case will inform the consultation we plan to publish in the autumn”
It followed criticism of the NMC by the Professional Standards Authority for “deficient” handling of fitness to practise case against two midwives Gretta Dixon and Catherine McCullough.
The case related to baby Joshua Titcombe who died at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust in 2008 from an infection that was not spotted by maternity staff.
It was found that relevant evidence was not submitted to the NMC’s panel before it decided to clear the two midwives in March. This included evidence of his parents’ concerns compiled shortly before Joshua’s death, as well as the findings of an inquest in 2011 and expert medical testimony.
- DH tells NMC to review treatment of bereaved families
- NMC criticised for ‘deficient’ handling of Morecambe Bay cases
- Panel’s clearance of Morecambe Bay midwives to be reviewed
The Department of Health said last Thursday it would consider the issues raised by the case as part of plans to reform professional regulation in the autumn. It also said regulators needed to ensure they were acting on recommendations from the Kirkup report into the past failures at Morecambe Bay.
A DH spokesman said: “The NMC needs urgently to review the way it treats patients and bereaved families who are witnesses in these cases and the way it handles evidence. The PSA will be writing to the NMC on these matters.
“The government is committed to reform of professional regulation and the issues raised in this case will help to inform the consultation we plan to publish in the autumn,” he said.
Jackie Smith, chief executive and registrar of the NMC, said: “We are completely committed to ensuring our fitness to practise procedures continue to be stringent. We have made considerable progress in recent years but we recognise that there is still more to do.
“We take very seriously the treatment of witnesses and bereaved families and that is why we set up a dedicated witness liaison service which supports witnesses through what can sometimes be a stressful process,” she said, adding: “We are keen to address all the concerns raised by the PSA.”