The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence looks set carry out a review of the nursing regulator, following the resignation of its chief executive last week.
Dickon Weir-Hughes resigned from his post at the Nursing and Midwifery Council with immediate effect last Thursday, citing “personal reasons”. He had been on sick leave since 16 December.
NMC director of fitness to practise Jackie Smith has been acting chief executive and registrar since then and will continue in this role, the regulator’s chair Tony Hazell said in a statement.
The resignation of professor Weir-Hughes, who joined the NMC in November 2009, comes at a time when the regulator was thought to be finally getting to grips with the long standing backlog of fitness to practise cases.
A series of reviews into the NMC have taken place in recent years, mainly focusing on the backlog it inherited in 2002 from its predecessor the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting.
An audit of the NMC in November by the CHRE, which also oversees other professional regulatory bodies such as the General Medical Council, found it was starting to make improvements but continued to have “areas of significant weaknesses” in its handling of fitness to practise cases.
Speaking to Nursing Times, CHRE chief executive Harry Cayton suggested a further review of the NMC was likely. There is currently nothing to suggest this would be on the scale of the investigation the regulator faced five years ago following accusations of internal bullying and racism, revealed by Nursing Times in February 2008.
Mr Cayton said: “I think it would be very valuable to have a review and we’re working with the NMC about how they might prepare for the appointment of a new chief executive.”
Asked whether it supported a review, a Department of Health spokeswoman said it was “considering how best to support the NMC at this time”.
“Discussions are ongoing with CHRE and the NMC. As is appropriate, parliament would be advised of any such plans before an announcement is made,” she said.