The Nursing and Midwifery Council has said it will take “immediate action” to address concerns on student mentoring revealed by Nursing Times last month.
The nursing regulator plans to write to all UK directors of nursing in response to a Nursing Times survey, which found 37 per cent of mentors had passed students in spite of question marks over their competence or attitude.
NMC chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes told Nursing Times the council was “taking immediate action to address the concerns raised by the Nursing Times survey”.
He said a letter would also be sent to nursing deans and nursing education commissioners to remind them “of their responsibilities in ensuring that all NMC standards for all approved programmes are met in full”.
Professor Weir-Hughes said: “We want them to ask mentors, those who employ mentors, and those responsible for preparing and supporting mentors to act now to ensure that all mentors are reminded of their responsibilities within the code for ensuring safe and effective practice.”
He added mentors “must be reassured that the importance of what they do and the standard they achieve in doing it more than often meets our professional requirements”.
Although the NMC monitors the workings of the mentoring system itself and believes the “vast majority” of assessments made by mentors are reliable and safe, Professor Weir-Hughes said it could not afford to take risks with patient safety.
He said: “Our main role is to safeguard the public and in relation to judgements about competence and fitness to practise there is no room for error.”
Mentors told Nursing Times they passed students they thought should actually fail as they believed universities routinely overturned fails, rendering their assessments “pointless”.
Those overturns were sometimes due to mentors being unable to keep up with the paperwork, but nurses and academics also said universities had a perverse incentive to pass as many students as possible because they suffered financial penalties if too many were dropped from courses.
Nursing Times understands the NMC has little sympathy for universities in that regard, as it believes they should be more rigorous in their selection criteria of students entering nursing courses.