The Nursing and Midwifery Council is starting to make improvements but continues to have “areas of significant weaknesses” in its handling of fitness to practice cases, an audit has found.
The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence noted there had been “some evidence of improvement in the quality and efficiency of the NMC’s fitness to practise process” in the past year.
In particular, improvements in identifying and prioritising serious cases were being made.
But the CHRE remained “concerned about the extent of the weaknesses…identified…some of which occurred relatively recently”.
These included delays in referring cases for interim orders and in informing registrants of the outcome of these referrals, inconsistencies in record-keeping, inadequate risk assessment, insufficient information gathering and poor customer service.
The CHRE expects the NMC to consider improving the timeliness of the information that it provides to complainants and improving the “robustness” of its approach to information gathering and analysis.
It also says the regulator should implement checks to ensure the consistency of risk assessments, record keeping and complaint handling.
It should ensure staff are appropriately tailoring standard letters to the circumstances
NMC chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes said he was “pleased” the CHRE had acknowledged the “considerable improvements that we have made in identifying and prioritising serious [fitness to practice] cases as these processes are inextricably linked to public protection”.
“We are already working to address many of the issues identified in the audit report,” he added.
It was “a little discouraging that the audit over-emphasises weaknesses that we are already dealing with” but the NMC will “take steps to tackle the points raised”, he said.
Changes to the regulator’s legal framework being discussed with the Department of Health would help to speed up its processes, he said.