Jim Devine, MP for Livingstone, said in a Commons adjournment debate last week that there was an ‘ingrained culture of bullying and racism’ at the NMC. Up to £300,000 of the regulator’s funds – raised from nurses’ and midwives’ registration fees costing £76 a year – was being spent on outside legal advice, said Mr Devine.
In response health minister Ben Bradshaw said he would write to the healthcare super-regulator, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) to expedite a report due in summer on how the NMC is run.
He said he would also write to the Charity Commission calling on it investigate the regulator’s financial management. If these steps failed to resolve the issue, Mr Bradshaw said he would resort to the ‘nuclear option’ of an intervention from the Privy Council, which may result in a public inquiry.
A statement from the NMC said: ‘Independent scrutiny will give us a chance to demonstrate that the NMC is a fully accountable, open and transparent organisation which does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.’
Health unions also welcomed Mr Bradshaw’s intervention. In a joint statement, Unison, the RCN and Unite said: ‘We believe it’s essential that these investigations are carried out swiftly.’
But Sheila Urquhart, community mental health nurse at Bradford District Care Trust, said: ‘How can you have confidence in nurses if you
don’t have confidence in their regulatory body?’
Mr Devine went on to ask four written questions in the Commons, asking how much the NMC has spent on internal grievances in the last six
years, how much it spent on related legal fees, how many times members have been asked to sign confidentiality agreements and how many NMC members are the subject of internal complaints.
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