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Nurses kept on hold by the NMC


Only around half of registrants’ calls to the Nursing and Midwifery Council are currently answered inside the industry standard.

At present, only around 53% of calls handled by the NMC registration centre are answered within 20 seconds – the accepted industry standard for call handling – the regulator’s council was told last week. Around 10% of calls are not answered at all because registrants have hung up.

At the busiest times of the day registrants could wait up to 15 minutes to have their call answered, NMC interim director of operations Lindsey Mallors told the council at its monthly meeting. She said the median average waiting time was around two minutes.

The figures were revealed during a discussion on the introduction of an NMC service standard and performance measure for call handling.

The council approved setting a standard of 60% of calls answered within 20 seconds and 85% answered overall, but noted this should represent a starting point towards more significant improvements when additional financial resources became available.

The council has also discussed two other more stringent targets: answering 85% or 95% of calls within 20 seconds, but rejected these because they would require extra staffing costs of between £120,000 and £180,000.

Ms Mallors highlighted that the NMC only had 19 call handlers compared to the 48 at the General Medical Council, which answers 90% of calls within 15 seconds.

NMC interim chief executive Jackie Smith said: “The only way to do this is to divert resources from fitness to practise, and we can’t do that.”

Council member Ruth Sawtell added: “We can’t accept these service standards, especially to have the median as two minutes. We have to say they are not good standards.

“But we’re in a bit of a fix. We don’t have the money to prioritise this.”


Readers' comments (9)

  • Looks like we are being softened up for the next big increase in our fees.

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  • You have hit the nail right on the head. Do they think we are that stupid.

    Why can't the NMC charge for referrals and fine those who make malicious, inappropriate or trumped-up allegations against innocent nurses.

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  • do the NMC realise how much it costs people to hang on in terms of cost and inconvenience and sometimes not to get through at all?

    In a similar vein, I recently called the HMRC to get information about a local office and their opening times but all their calls go through a central call centre. I never got an answer although there was a recorded message saying how important my call was to them and I could either hold on or call again later. It would have been more helpful to tell me how long the wait would roughly be. I hung on because i thought it would be cheaper than having to pay repeated call set up charges in addition to further waits even though I was calling off-peak. I never got through but was charged £7 on my BT landline bill.

    Eventually, at great inconvenience I went to find the local office only to be told that they saw people by appointment only and gave me the phone number which was their only one and the one I had been ringing!

    Many of these call centres are just the same and I won't go on to describe the experiences I had of my last idiot call I had to the NMC, already described in a previous post and please do not even mention national health helplines to me!

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  • The NMC is there to protect patients from nurses and not to protect nurses from their patients, employers, poor working conditions or the general public, so we are repeatedly told. However, if they do not have a protective role towards their fee paying registrants they do have a role and the responsibility to provide them with an adequate quality of service.

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  • Wait for a few days then we will see an article stating that the NMC are unable to offer a telephone service to their members unless they re-direct funds from the FtP pot. That will be their excuse for trying to increase their fees.

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  • no they have come up with another one it's the computor system! surely the main stay and essential piece of equipment for the organisation! Essential for employers to check the register. And for them to accurately record their clients (that's us by the way! as we pay for a service) status on their professional register.

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  • I rang from abroad at great expense with a query and the operator, instead of saying hello and introducing herself, said very abruptly I can't take your call our computers are down so I can't call up your details and you can call back later. Luckily I managed to get her to hold on for long enough to tell her I was phoning from abroad, wasn't prepared to phone back again (how was I supposed to know I wouldn't get the same response again later) and that my enquiry was of a general nature for which she did not need my details. However, I was left none the wiser after being given the opportunity to put my question and eliciting some sort of vague response from her as she obviously did not know her stuff about the conditions for registration or couldn't be bothered.

    So if their computers are down this means that some of the switchboard operators or clerks in the registry department are not able to introduce themselves in a civil manner on the phone and see if they can help the caller in some way!

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  • Toby Ornottoby

    Anonymous | 22-May-2012 10:40 am

    "Why can't the NMC charge for referrals and fine those who make malicious, inappropriate or trumped-up allegations against innocent nurses."

    Exactly! Oh no hang on a bit... that would mean the NMC would have to actually do something to justify their fat salaries... oh no we can't have that can we?

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  • I agree with you Toby, that would be the best thing to do.

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