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.”