The Nursing and Midwifery Council has met a performance target for getting cases to a hearing within six months of being referred from the investigating committee.
The target stipulated that, by the end of 2014, the regulator should get 90% of cases to hearing within six months of referral. It announced today that it had achieved this for 93% of cases.
The length of time of the fitness to practise process is an area in which the regulator has traditionally struggled.
The target was set by the Department of Health as a condition for it providing the NMC with a £20m grant in 2012.
The DH stepped in with grant after the NMC threatened to increase the annual registration fee from £76 to £120, arguing that it needed the money to deal with its fitness to practise workload.
At the time, receipt of the £20m persuaded the regulator to limit the fee increase to £100, but it subsequently increased it again last year to the originally envisaged £120.
“Achieving a six month target in 93 percent of cases is evidence that we have time and cost efficient public protection measures in place”
In a statement issued today, the NMC said that since July 2012 more than 4,000 cases had been dealt with at hearings by its fitness to practise panels, which it claimed was “considerably more than all the other healthcare regulators combined”.
NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said: “We are delighted to have not only met the target, but exceeded it.
“We were determined to meet the terms of the Department of Health grant, and, crucially, to increase public and professional confidence in us as an effective regulator,” she said.
“This good news is part of a larger picture of efficiencies being undertaken in our fitness to practise directorate,” she added.
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said meeting the target was “encouraging news” and showed the NMC was “making progress in becoming a more effective regulator”.
“Dealing with fitness to practise cases in a timely way is essential to ensure patients receive safe care and that we have a professional regulation system that is fit for the future,” he said.
The regulator added that further improvements to the fitness to practise process would be made by the introduction of case examiners in March.
They will consider allegations of impairment of fitness to practise and decide whether there is a case to answer and, as a result, further reduce the time it takes to conclude cases, said the NMC.