The Nursing and Midwifery Council has admitted that IT errors have left hundreds of nurses and midwives with inaccurate registration records, in some cases involving cautions and striking off orders.
The regulator said 410 inconsistencies had been identified so far in fitness to practise data during a snap audit sparked by the chance discovery of some errors.
The regulator’s council was told last week that 300 mistakes were not “public protection issues”, but the remaining 100 were of major concern and had been urgency rectified. More mistakes are expected to be found before the end of the audit, which was planned to finish today.
The problem is linked to the incompatibility of the NMC’s two main computer systems.
The regulator has identified discrepancies between the data held on registrants’ status in the registrations database – a system ironically called – WISER and the fitness to practise case management system.
Because the systems cannot be linked, the outcomes of hearings and associated court proceedings recorded in the case management system have to be manually transferred to WISER. Human error has led to some caution orders and striking off orders not being added correctly to the register, the NMC said, though it claimed the number of serious mistakes found was “reasonably small”.
The NMC council was told that immediate steps had been taken to ensure tighter checks occurred when entries were made in future, but that a long term solution would require investment in a new IT strategy.
Interim chief executive Jackie Smith said: “Bluntly, unless we invest in our IT systems we will remain at risk with WISER. It is a very old system [and] it is difficult to find the expertise to keep it going.”
Interim chair Judith Ellis said the regulator was in the process of developing a new IT strategy for the next five years. However, it is expected to require £10m investment at a time when the regulator is facing significant financial problems (see left).
Professor Ellis said the draft plans were being independently reviewed “because it is such a key issue for us to get this right and the cost of any IT strategy right”.
“The bottom line is the [current] IT [system] does not serve the organisation,” she said.