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NMC drops panellists despite capacity fears

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The NMC has dismissed 66 of its fitness-to-practise panel members, despite admitting there was a risk of delays to its hearings process.

The regulator has taken the ‘difficult decision to balance the risk to fitness to practise activity against concerns about governance’, according to a letter sent to dismissed panel members on 8 August by board member Brenda Maitland, chairperson of the NMC appointments, and director of fitness to practise Ian Todd.

Last month NT revealed the NMC’s proposals to reduce the number of existing panellists, whose term of office is due to come to an end in September.

The move is part of a previously stated NMC aim to ensure that its pool of panellists ‘better reflects’ the diversity of the nurses and midwives on its register (NT News, 29 July, p4).

An NMC spokesperson confirmed the 66 panellists would not be taking on new cases after 30 September, although they had been asked to complete any cases they have begun to work on, even if this means staying on.

Despite the letter’s admission of a ‘risk to fitness to practise activity’, the NMC spokesperson said the regulator was ‘not anticipating problems covering hearings’.

The NMC now has 165 panellists. It is planning to recruit new panellists in batches of 50 every six months starting in the autumn.

David Harding-Price, a mental health clinician and one of the panellists set to leave the organisation in September, warned that the NMC was ‘getting rid of experienced panellists’.

‘At the moment I am being contacted almost daily by the NMC because their schedulers have realised that cases will not get done after the end of September,’ he said.

‘I am concerned that as a result of this standards of care provided around the country will start to decrease,’ Mr Harding-Price added.

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