Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


'NMC’s restricted powers puts patient safety at risk'


If the story of the Nursing and Midwifery Council was made into a drama, it would be an epic one. Costing millions to make, incredibly long and with more unexpected twists and turns than most Hollywood blockbusters - it would grip audiences.

Sadly, though, this isn’t about entertainment. And the millions in question don’t belong to some glitzy Hollywood studio, but to registrants. And it seems their hard-earned money yet again is being used for a cause that isn’t protecting the public.

After years of allegations of racism and bullying, accusations of poor leadership and financial mismanagement of registrants’ money, another calamity has occurred for the regulator. And this may be the most disturbing of all.

It seems that in February this year, a High Court judge presiding over a case in Scotland said that in his view the legal basis for the NMC’s powers meant that finding a nurse incompetent could “never result in striking off” that registrant (see page 2).

He said “at the most” registrants found to be incompetent could be suspended for up to a year. And although they could be suspended again, that suspension could not be converted into a striking-off order without further findings against the individual.

While the Nursing and Midwifery Council tries to find out where it goes from here, the question about who exactly it can strike off is cause for alarm

This saga may seem like another head-in-hands moment in the NMC’s history, but it’s not the regulator’s fault this time.

Responsibility lies with the policy makers who set up the council and defined its powers, who failed to ensure watertight wording.

But while the NMC tries to find out where it goes from here, the question about who exactly it can strike off is cause for alarm.

Most fitness to practise cases are not about competence but about behavioural issues - but having the power to strike off nurses who don’t know what they’re doing is vital for the regulator.

The NMC’s prime job is to protect the public. And it can only do that if it can assure the public that the register it maintains contains only nurses who are safe to practise.

While poor attitude or inappropriate use of trust computers are things we don’t want to see from our nurses, they don’t present the same risk to patients as nurses who are not competent at their job.

Having the power to ensure nurses are not allowed to practise if they aren’t skilled enough to take care of patients is vital if the NMC is to ensure the public’s safety and the standing of the profession.

This latest twist in the tale of the NMC just seems unbelievable - and makes that Hollywood saga or Greek tragedy feel more like the latest scene in the tragicomedy that has become Carry on Regulating.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (10)

  • Jenni,
    Clearly this is yet another anomaly showing up within the NMC processes.

    Hopefully with the outcome of the law review due out next year we will have more comprehensive and equitable as well as safe systems which protects the public.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Interesting to read. Most of the other statutory healthcare regulators have these same powers and have managed to deal with cases fairly and protect the public in doing so. Its about ensuring the rest of the FtP process is handled correctly and restrictions are put in place which will both protect the public and allow the registrant to improve. If this nurse is unable to be re-mediated, there are of course other failings from employers in allowing them to work, registration and education functions of the NMC which could be looked at.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • incredible. every time we receive a reminder of payment and NOP we are also firmly reminded of their duties to protect the public and I assumed this and maintaining our names on the register was what we were paying for.

    So glad I saw sense when it was still only £75 which I badly needed for house repairs and resigned in favour of another register which entitles me to practice outside the UK. Sadly, I would no longer wish to practice in Britain and am relieved not to be no longer associated with this toxic organisation as I would not wish to have my membership to it on my conscience although I rather wonder what I had been paying into since its inception having been previously duped when we were led to believe that we had registered for life with the GNC.

    LoL a former SRN!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • If we could stop some of the numpties even qualifying it would be a start!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 8-Oct-2013 4:04 pm

    That is down to the Universities and the placement mentors who continue allow the 'numpties' to progress rather than pop their heads over the parapet and fail them. In other words, it is down to all of us.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Being "numpties" is not a valid excuse to deny qualification as a nurse; I have known students be bullied in placements because they did not "fit" the department they were working in and therefore appeared as "numpties" to the qualified staff there. But they were not "numpties" in other areas, where they intended to work. Don't fall into the trap that the NMC are, of bullying, incompetence and not being able to consider the broader picture.

    Some union friends of mine have recently had to contact the NMC, who bulldoze their way through procedures and are self deluded to think that they are the guardians of the public as they sit on their magnificent thrones of sand.

    Their processes in wearing down nurses who have done little wrong with regard to patient care; but have fallen foul of some bitchy or over zealous administrative regime is nothing short of bullying.

    I begrudge every penny I am forced to pay these blinkered idiots in this "toxic" organisation.

    Hey 1:59pm of 8/10/13, how do I register abroad?? please share.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 9-Oct-2013 11:58 am

    "Being "numpties" is not a valid excuse to deny qualification as a nurse...."

    I guess that depends on your definition of a numpty. In all the years I have mentored students, I have only ever once come across what I would consider to be a true numpty. She was a kind and considerate mature student in her 30s who had previously qualified as a nursery nurse. She came to my ward at the end of her second year. Ideal, you would think. Her lack of wit, knowledge and basic ability was obvious and puzzling. I involved the Uni early in her placement and we tried to support her through the placement. Her tutor told me that they had been waiting for this to happen. They felt that she was struggling in placement, but no mentor wanted the responsibility of failing her and progressed her back to uni and onto the next placement. She is the only student I have been unable to assess as having passed her placement. There was no bullying, only lots of support and opportunity to improve. She herself came to the realisation that nursing was not for her. I hope that she found her niche in some other work, because she tried hard and was a nice person. But she was a numpty and she was let down by the mentors who let her progress as far as she did.

    "Hey 1:59pm of 8/10/13, how do I register abroad?? please share."

    By living and working abroad!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The NMC’s prime job is to protect the public. And it can only do that if it can assure the public that the register it maintains contains only nurses who are safe to practise.

    IF the NMC would investigate the people( ie the Nurse Managers) who report perfectly safe and competent nurses to the NMC, as incompetent because they( Management) want to get rid of the Nurse/whistle blower / just a vexation to their own incompetence or teach the Nurse a lesson, then may be we would stem the tide of unsafe Nurses.

    Until the NMC take effective action to prevent the reporting of Nurses as "an easy way of bullying staff" with no accountability or sanction attached for false reporting. The NMC will continue to be failing both the public and the nurses.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The NMC again? I love nursing but embarrassed to the point of despair by the organisation. Is there an alternative option?
    The NMC wants more money.
    The NMC wants more power.
    The NMC wants everything for nothing and has the audacity to claim it's protecting the public.
    The NMC condones the passive aggressive management mantra of 'protect your pin'. A technique that the less astute senior grades wield like a psychological cosh.
    The NMC has recently contravened the Human Rights act.
    The NMC board should consider brushing up on modern 'front line' NHS nursing, on the provision that they have kept their skills and 'pin' sharp. Having said that the registration fee is quite steep these days. They may not be able to afford it. Suppose that it could be claimed on expenses?
    The NMC if the organisational epitome it claims continuously to be, should disband? Reform a new organisation with new fresh faces, professional prestige and altruism at its core. A NMC self-appraisal, perhaps? Would the NMC revalidate itself?
    Oh and move out of the plush London offices, relocate to The North. Hull, Middlesbrough or Hartlepool could do with a cash injection.
    Perhaps then it's replacement will be fit for purpose? Furthermore, I'll be happy to pay £200. Gladly.
    From a Happy Nurse.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Maryam Omitogun

    The reason why the problems of Nurses continue to be the point of discussion every time is because nearly some workers in Nursing and Midwifery Council office I believe are not Nurses.Also Nursing profession have been so much abused to the level that if Nurses wants to work as an Agency Nurse, those that attends to Nurses in term of recruiting and checking the certificates don't have any experiences in Nursing or they are Nurse Professional. I see this as an abuse to the profession.

    I believe trained Nurses and Midwife should be Top leaders when it gets to the issue of Nursing/Midwifery Administration.
    Nurses/Midwife that actually started the Nursing career from the Grass root of real Nursing and actually know the reason why they are Nurses should be recruited in the Administration of Nurses in Nursing and Midwifery Council.

    Some countries usually sent Experienced Qualified Nurses/Midwife to go for Academic Administration Nurse Training and on their return will work in an administrative position when they return like, Head/Director/Chief in the hospital or in an academic Institutions. I am not very sure if this is happening in NMC Office?

    I believe if more Nurses are working on the administrative position in the NMC Office,they will be able to address all the problems Nurses and Midwife are encountering and stand firmly to fight for Nurses right and reject all issues they think are not right.

    Nursing profession should be taking more seriously as it is a very Recognised job world wide.Nurses are not suppose to be cheated, instead Nursing professionals should appreciated for their hard work and give them their rightful right to balance up Equity and Equality in Health Care.

    Maryam Dolapo Omitogun
    Greater London

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.