An unexpected rise in fitness to practise referrals has caused the Nursing and Midwifery Council to overspend its budget for legal fees with six months of the financial year still to go.
The regulator has so far spent £2.7m over its fitness to practise budget of £23.5m. It has warned that the case volumes it was seeing “represent a significant financial risk” to its finances – the NMC has a total annual budget of £56m.
The NMC has received 622 cases since 1 April but had only budgeted for 320, new figures show.
A paper presented to the regulator’s formal council meeting on Thursday said: “The increase in volumes is believed to be due to the NMC’s higher media profile, and a more pro-active approach, with the NMC opening a number of cases itself instead of waiting for an external referral.”
The regulator has reported a near-tripling of referrals over the past seven years. In the financial year 2003-04 there were 1,461 referrals, compared to 4,211 in 2010-11.
This month a new team of 10 “paralegals” started work in the fitness to practice department to help improve the situation. Paralegals are not qualified solicitors but have the education and training to perform many of the same legal tasks.
The NMC said they would tackle “straightforward investigations in-house and ensure the cases we send to our external law firms for investigation are bringing us the maximum value for money”.