The number of fitness to practise cases referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council increased by more than 1,000 last year.
The regulator has cited its higher online profile and increased use of social media, such as Facebook, as the underlying reason for the hike, rather than an actual deterioration in nursing practise.
Its annual report for 2010-11, published last week, shows there were 4,211 cases referred to the NMC during the year. This compares to 2,988 the previous year.
The figures confirm an increasing trend flagged by the regulator earlier this year, when it revealed it had received 57% more referrals during January and February this year than during the same two months last year (news, page 3, 5 April).
The NMC suggests that its work to make it easier for the public to understand how to make a complaint “may well have contributed to the dramatic increase in the number of referrals we received this year”.
For example, the report highlights “simple changes such as using more accessible language” on its website mean it is more likely to be identified and recommended by online search engines.
“We have also increased our web profile and social media presence, for example, through Facebook,” it adds.
The jump in referrals also had a knock on effect for the regulator’s investigating committee panels. They considered 4,058 cases this year compared to 2,006 in 2009-10; they completed 574 cases in 2010-11, a rise on the 503 completed in 2009-10.
There was, however, a slight reduction in nurses being struck off the register – 187 in 2010-11, compared with 194 in 2009-10. There were 1,847 cases closed because the panels found no case to answer, compared with 1,045 in 2009-10.