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NMC urged to keep focus on regulation and not staff shortages


Nursing regulation chiefs have been urged not to lose sight of their raison d’être amid rising noise over workforce shortages.

Welsh health board nursing director Ruth Walker issued the warning to executives of the Nursing and Midwifery Council during the bi-monthly meeting of the regulator’s council this morning.

“We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking anybody is better than nobody and that we maintain those standards”

Andrea Sutcliffe

Ms Walker, who is also a registrant member of the NMC council, said she was aware of the “pressure” that leaders were under to play their part in addressing staffing issues. 

Nursing and midwifery shortages have been widely regarded by key leaders including in the government as the most pressing challenge facing the health service and the biggest threat to the success of the new NHS Long Term Plan, released in January. 

Latest data shows there are more than 39,000 nurse vacancies in England’s NHS provider sector alone. 

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Whistleblowing helpline for Cardiff NHS staff

Ruth Walker

Ms Walker noted that the NMC had invested a significant amount of time over the past year in changes aimed at supporting recruitment, such as rethinking international registration and return to practice procedures.

However, she urged executives to not let this agenda dominate their attention at the detriment of the NMC’s core regulatory duties. 

“I know the pressure that the executives are under in order to try and assist to get the workforce numbers that are required,” Ms Walker told the meeting. 

“I think we have to remember that our role and function is about regulation and standards of education and the standards that we hold registrants to,” she stated.

Ms Walker, executive nurse director at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, called on NMC leaders to “keep that the focus”.

Andrea Sutcliffe, the NMC’s new chief executive, backed Ms Walker’s comments and vowed to strive for quality over quantity.

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Andrea Sutcliffe

Source: NMC

Andrea Sutcliffe

Responding to Ms Walker’s caution, she said: “It’s very helpful that you have articulated it in that way because it does indeed underpin all of our activity and one of the things I think is very important is that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking anybody is better than nobody and that we maintain those standards.

“We are clear about our expectations around safety and we are clear about our expectations on people being able to care in the way you or I would want ourselves or our loved ones to be supported,” Ms Sutcliffe added.




Readers' comments (8)

  • How on earth can you maintain standards, which is what most qualified nurses want to do, when there aren't enough of them to do so in the first place?

    This is effectively saying anything goes wrong and we will blame the nurse for not keeping up standards. Ridiculous.

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  • Lets hope there are enough Nurses left to regulate.

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  • Great that this has been recognised at council - need to look at how the NMC can assist to keep registrants in the profession and only remove them when absolutely necessary. It is more difficult and takes more time to retrain but in most instances registrants can address their issues if they have the right support and guidance.

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  • 147 registrants respondent and out of these 107 respondent to the question about impact on career
    31% worked at same level they were before FtP
    23.5% worked at lower level than before FtP
    5.66% worked at higher level than before FtP
    21.7% decided to leave the profession
    17.9% remained on the register but haven't worked since FtP

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  • This is precisely the matter we MUST address, because staff shortage is positively kafkaesque for compromised safe and effect practice which compromises patient safety.

    Given that the NMC exists to "protect the public through professional standards", those very standards are compromised by expecting such to be upheld under the very conditions that not only threatens those standards, but effectively on a daily basis is fertile ground for everything going wrong and yet the Registrant is being held accountable when things INEVITABLY go wrong!

    This, in my view, could be seen (on the balance of probability and the objective standard of the ordinary man/woman) as the perfect business case (strategy) of a regulatory setup and process which spends millions of pounds per annum paying Barristers to make a case questioning or challenging the referred Registrant's Fitness to Practice at a substantive hearing, when the real and contributing problems are glaringly obvious.

    And those problems, such as STAFF SHORTAGES, could readily be "remediated" (an act the regulator expects from Registrants) on the Regulators part by way of imposing Minimum Staffing Ratios for Registrants in defined working areas as reasonable a standard for Safe and Effective practice on the part of the Registrant for the avoidance of risks against the public the Regulator exists to protect, less the regulator turns a blind eye to the heartless profiteering of some private sector health and social care service providers (where many Registrants work) at the expense of Nurses and Midwives who often are needlessly put through stressful disciplinary and regulatory process and the daily suffering (inadvertent on the part of the Nurse/Midwife) of the very vulnerable part of the public the regulator exists to protect🤷🏽‍♂️

    I (do not) rest my case until such is effected.

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  • The whole international registration process is a money-making scam, I’m an Australian nurse that the NMC took thousands of pounds from and failed me for simple overthoughts in a practical exam, of which I have witnessed every UK trained nurse do. The whole process insinuates other country’s standards don’t meet that of the UK. I was fortunate enough to be supported through the company I worked with and still able to work in health care as a HCA whilst living in the UK, and I can tell you with first hand experience that the level of training the UK provides its own nurses is definitely not at all above Australia. I even had to sit an English language exam, and it’s the only language I know - and I know other only English speaking nurses that even failed this! There are many nurses from Australia that would be interested to travel and work in the UK for periods of time, it’s just not worth the current hassle both financially and psychologically. Granted there are some minor differences in health care systems, but nothing a two week orientation wouldn’t clarify. If you think about how the UK is happy to take our fresh new graduate paramedics based on our “quality of training”, it’s just a bit ridiculous to think that our standard of nurses would differ so much. I was told throughout my ordeal with the NMC, by an official that was assessing my competence, that these regulations are in place because of all of the bad things that have happened due to the quality of nurses in the UK, again insinuating that international nurses are the problem. It’s just wrong on all levels and I warn absolutely everyone off going and working in the UK. It’s not worth the peanuts you get paid and the level of risk that you work in. I can earn close to £50k a year and have a safe ratio of 1:4 in Australia - not to mention the level of respect the profession has in Australia, over that of the UK.

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  • I agree with all the above comments. I always felt the NMC, are not looking at the whole picture. They appear to be more focused on disciplinary action, rather then addressing the real issues, such as staffing levels which is a major contributory factor towards errors made by nurses.

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  • They also seem happy to condone the nursing associate post which in my view is a disaster waiting to happen.

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