The Nursing and Midwifery Council has launched a consultation on its controversial plans to deal with the majority of fitness to practise cases in private, claiming the change would encourage nurses and midwives to speak up about problems at an earlier stage in the process.
The proposals, which would mean fewer public hearings are held, have attracted criticism in recent weeks following their unveiling in draft council papers from the regulator.
“This isn’t a done deal, we’re eager to hear not only from professionals and employers but importantly from members of the public”
However, critics of the idea have claimed the proposed changes by the NMC will remove a deterrent against poor conduct, reduce public scrutiny and result in less transparency by the regulator.
Last week, the NMC defended its plans at its latest council meeting, as reported by Nursing Times. But, as it launched its consultation exercise today, the regulator insisted the plans were not a “done deal” and encouraged nurses and the public to share their views.
- FtP cases set to be mostly heard in private under NMC plans
- NMC defends plans to deal with most FtP cases in private
It highlighted that the changes, if approved, would mean cases were only dealt with privately when there was no dispute about the complaint and what sanction should be applied.
Those affected by failings in care would only be called to give evidence at public hearings where “absolutely necessary”, said the regulator in its consultation document – titled Ensuring patient safety, enabling professionalism: a new strategic direction for fitness to practise.
The NMC restated that it planned to continue to publish the outcome of cases – and as part of the changes also wanted to start publishing details where registrants voluntarily remove themselves from the register.
It said it wanted to introduce the changes to reduce the amount of time taken to deal with a case, to support nurses and midwives to be open about their mistakes and to move away from its current “distressing” fitness to practise process.
“Where nurses and midwives speak up early and learn from their mistakes we want to see fewer hearings”
More widely, the regulator wants to see employers dealing with complaints first. It has proposed only becoming involved with a case if it has already been investigated by bosses, according to the consultation document.
Today the regulator’s chief executive and registrar, Jackie Smith, said: “Where nurses and midwives speak up early and learn from their mistakes we want to see fewer hearings and cases resolved much more quickly.
“We want to move away from a process which is often adversarial, cumbersome and distressing to one which supports a learning culture where nurses and midwives can be open about what happened,” she said.
“Our proposals aren’t about excluding anyone, rather we want to reduce the impact on all those involved whilst putting patient safety at the heart of what we do,” said Ms Smith.
“This isn’t a done deal, we’re eager to hear not only from professionals and employers but importantly from members of the public about our proposed new approach,” she added.
The consultation on the changes is open until 30 May.