The Nursing and Midwifery Council is failing to carry out its statutory functions according to standards expected by the public, says a report by the government's healthcare super-regulator.
Although the NMC is carrying out duties such as maintaining a register and protecting the public, the report by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE), says internal strife is hindering its ability to function.
Furthermore the CHRE said it had found evidence of bullying at the NMC during its investigation, although it said it had not found evidence of racism.
'We have seen and heard evidence of inappropriate and aggressive language by and between Council members and between Council members and the executive. We have also heard accounts of emotional and aggressive behaviour in meetings. This behaviour is undoubtedly experienced as threatening and bullying by many Council members and staff involved,' the report said.
The regulator raised concerns that nurses still have to wait two and half years on average for fitness to practise hearings to be concluded. It added that the NMC must introduce an IT-based case management system to help reduce waits.
The NMC should create a new governance structure, with an appointed council and president, instead of the current election system.
In future the NMC will have its judiciary function in fitness to practise cases taken away and transferred to the new Office of the Health Adjudicator, set up under the Health and Social Care Bill, which is currently before Parliament.
CHRE chief executive Harry Cayton said: ‘We have serious concerns about the inadequate operation of the NMC’s fitness to practice processes, governance framework and lack of strategic leadership.’
The report was launched at the request of health minister Ben Bradshaw following an adjournment debate by Livingstone MP Jim Devine in the House of Commons in March. During the debate, MPs heard evidence that there was an ‘ingrained culture of bullying and racism’ at the NMC.
An NMC spokesperson said: 'We are acutely aware that there is still a big job to do at the NMC. We have already identified fitness to practise, better customer service and a modern IT infrastructure as areas for sustained attention and activity. We are confident that we can deliver the improvement that is necessary.'