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Warning fitness to practise data analysis will not deliver Francis commitment

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The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s better use of fitness to practise data will be insufficient to improve the safety of healthcare to the level required following the Francis report, one of the regulator’s council members has warned.

The regulator was “kidding” itself if it believed FtP data could generate intelligence that was going to help with “fundamental safety and quality issues”, said council member Stephen Thornton at an NMC meeting in July.

“The tiny tip of the iceberg which is FtP is not going to generate for us the kind of intelligence that frankly was assumed in the Francis report”

Stephen Thornton 

The 2013 Francis report into care failings at the former Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust led to a series of recommendations being made for professional regulators to use their data more effectively to improve public protection.

A specific recommendation for the NMC was for it to be equipped to look at systemic concerns as well as individual cases, and for it to share this analysis with systems regulators. The Francis report said it “should not have to wait until a disaster has occurred to intervene with its fitness to practise procedures”.

One of the nursing regulator’s key aims in its current corporate strategy is to improve its use of intelligence as part of the commitments it made in response to the Francis recommendations.

An NMC spokeswoman told Nursing Times that its data would in future be used to identify trends in FtP cases, which could then inform employers of particular problems in their organisation or region, or help them to improve the quality of referrals.

But at the council meeting last month Mr Thornton suggested that instead of focussing on FtP data, the NMC would be able to glean more useful intelligence from data on revalidation – the new system of competency checks introduced earlier this year.

“I’m really glad to hear about what we might learn from revalidation …[that is one of the sources of] intelligence that [will] be more helpful to us”

Stephen Thornton 

“We are going to have to be rather careful in terms of managing expectations on this,” he said. “I think the tiny tip of the iceberg which is FtP is not going to generate for us the kind of intelligence that frankly was assumed in the Francis report and has been a mantra really among all the regulators since [then].

“I think we are kidding ourselves if we believe that is really going to help us with fundamental safety and quality issues out there in the delivery of healthcare,” added Mr Thornton.

“I’m really glad to hear about what we might learn from revalidation and stuff like that – those are some of the sources of some of this intelligence that are going to be more helpful to us,” he told the meeting.

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Warning NMC data analysis will not deliver Francis pledge

Stephen Thornton

Concerns were also raised earlier in the meeting that the NMC’s progress in refining its use of data had so far been too slow and that the changes could have an impact across all of the regulator’s operations.

The nursing regulator was working closely with the General Medical Council to learn how it was improving its use of data, council members were told by NMC chief operating officer Alison Sansome.

The NMC will also procure “external expertise” to help it understand what kind of information would be most useful to it and what changes it needed to make to its systems to collate that data, she said.

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