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'NMC review must hear nurses’ concerns about their regulator'


Unison’s Gail Adams urges nurses to make their voices heard during the Nursing and Midwifery Council review

I have nothing but respect for the dedicated, hardworking staff at the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Having worked closely with them, I know firsthand their commitment to nurses, midwives and patients. But I also know that there are problems we need to resolve – something is obviously wrong with an organisation when it needs two governmental reviews in just four years.

The largest regulator of nurses and midwives in the world, the NMC covers 680,000 registrants and has an annual budget of nearly £55m. Unlike the rest of the NHS, it doesn’t face demands to find billions of pounds in savings and it won’t have to axe staff. It should be the healthiest organisation in the service, but instead it appears to be blighted by crisis and problems.

Unison believes in self-regulation. It is right that nurses, midwives and health visitors set their own standards and manage themselves, just as doctors do. This is why we are committed to working with the Council of Healthcare Regulatory Excellence and the NMC every step of the way on this latest review.

But make no bones about it, the CHRE must be able to go wherever it wants and leave no stone unturned. If we are to put things right, the review must hear loud and clear from nurses and midwives about their concerns, as well as from external organisations. Unison will be encouraging its members to make their voices heard at all stages.

‘Like others I pay my £76 each year. In return I expect a self-managing organisation that holds the respect and confidence of all. Patients and staff deserve no less’

It goes without saying that in the health service, the needs of patients must always come first. But this review must also put at its heart, the staff whom the regulator is there to serve. As a body the NMC receives no government funding – instead every registered nurse, midwife and health visitor must pay £76 each year if they want to practise. In exchange, the NMC must play a role in championing the profession’s work – education, standards and registration are just as important as fitness to practise. And action must be taken here if we are to move forward.

The fitness-to-practise process must become quicker, fairer and more transparent – not only to make sure that it can respond properly to patients’ complaints, but also to reflect the stress that is felt by all parties, including nurses and midwives during the process. If we can conclude cases quicker, and work together where registrants acknowledge mistakes we can start to move forward.

Part of the solution is how the regulator manages itself. What we need to see is real leadership that will give the organisation - from its chief executive down - a clear direction. The NMC needs to find a new way of identifying and agreeing organisational priorities, and a method to allocate its budget to reflect those priorities. Strong governance is needed so that everyone is properly held to account.

Staff also need to be appropriately managed and supported to develop and deliver the organisation’s goals - they must feel respected, valued and listened to. Unison also believes the regulator must work to engage more effectively with stakeholders, so that it can gain the trust and confidence of patients, nurses and midwives.

Unison will make sure it cooperates every step of the way to help give patients, health workers and the public the reassurance of a strong, effective regulatory body. But we are clear that this must be the last review the NMC has to undergo. Rightly, the profession will not allow any more.

Like others I pay my £76 each year. In return I expect a self-managing organisation that holds the respect and confidence of all. Patients and staff deserve no less.

Gail Adams is head of nursing at Unison


Readers' comments (7)

  • 'But this review must also put at its heart, the staff whom the regulator is there to serve.'

    It is there to protect the public, primarily.

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  • Anonymous | 27-Feb-2012 3:25 pm

    fine, but this does not mean that they do not need to their registrants and prospective registrants with respect.

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  • I have looked at quite a lot of hearings on the NMC site, and really there are some shocking things such as physical abuse, neglect..however there are some incidents that should have been resolved at a more local level by senior nurses etc. Because some over worked nurse on an understaffed unit had to make her own judgement and could not do an observation at a particular time is brought to the attention of the NMC ! how ridiculous is that ? and these panel meetings, solicitors incur a high cost, and not to mention the booking of hotels for meetings...very nice indeed. I worked on several occasions at a day hospital in West London (elderly care) the place was falling down, leaking ceilings...BUT we managed to get on with the job. Perhaps the NMC needs to get its house in order. Te NMC is primarily to serve the interests of the public, then there should be some government funding. They could also propose a policy for local investigations.Eg. senior nurses, managers deal with situations and impose the necessary sanctions/ re training. Nurses are literally terrified of being reported, and have to spend more time on completing documentation to cover their backs. I had a call from a nursing home yesterday, they needed a reg nurse at another home..and offered to pay my transport, and this was not near me. I said no..because I will not go to a nursing home with unfamiliar residents, and undertake a drug round, even if there is an experienced HCA working with me. The NMC fail to see the root problems.. under staffing, dealing with large client loads. Sometimes I work at a local nursing home, the floors have approx 30 residents (elderly) there are two drug round trolleys, one trolley can take up to 2 hours to administer, fair enough if there are two reg nurses on duty, if only one..that means standing for a few hours...what I am getting at is Nurses are frustrated, tired, often over worked..leading to increased irritability, then errors. The NMC must recognise the very root problems, and urge employers to increase the rate of hourly pay for HCAs...then perhaps there might be less shortages, and enhance patient care as opposed to lip service on paper.

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  • What was wrong with the GNC, UKCC ????

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  • The NMC is not sending Notification to practice forms out in time to be returned before the nurse 's registration lapses.
    This is poor management of the register.

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  • Karen Rice | 4-Oct-2012 9:59 pm

    is this a new issue? Up until last year mine always arrived in time.

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  • The Career Key

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