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Nurses should be banned from top NMC job, says super regulator


Practising nurses and midwives should be banned in future from the top job at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, according to the body responsible for overseeing the troubled regulator.

The council’s senior executive holds the joint post of chief executive and registrar, and is responsible for both running the organisation and managing admission to the NMC register. 

The NMC’s last permanent chief executive and registrar, Dickon Weir-Hughes, was a registered nurse, though his interim replacement Jackie Smith is not.

But the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence has called for the law to be changed to “prohibit” the appointment of a registrant as registrar, in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

It argues that the registrar has “considerable power” and their “integrity and independence from the profession should be beyond question”.

The CHRE has also recommended that lay members should form the majority over registrants on the NMC’s ruling council.

The CHRE’s comments come in response to proposals from the law commissions of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to restructure the way the NMC and other regulators operate. Its views are likely to be highly influential on the commission’s final recommendations to ministers.

However, the proposed move away from professionally led regulation is likely to be unpopular with nurses. A Nursing Times survey earlier this year found 71% of respondents though it was vital a nurse or former nurse was either chief executive or chair of the NMC.

Unison and the Royal College of Nursing have indicated that they would like to see at least one of the top positions held by someone with a nursing background.

But CHRE chief executive Harry Cayton said: “Regulation is solely and only about protection of the public. It is not about the promotion or enhancement of the status of any profession; that’s the domain of the professional associations and royal colleges not the regulator.”

The CHRE also backed the commissions’ proposals to introduce “financial penalties” for misconduct or failure to comply with fitness to practise proceedings, which were revealed in March.


Readers' comments (45)

  • In response to Bob, the CHRE link is -
    The Law Commission has consulted on proposed ways to increase consistency and efficiency across regulation. The link is to CHRE's response to that consultation. On page 16, you'll find the relevant part (to this article) of CHRE's response. It's a general comment, not aimed at the NMC in particular but to all the health care regulators.

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  • Juggling Dog

    the positive imbalance of "learned-judges" (Registered Nurses) against "lay" (Daily Mail readers) members.

    Toby Ornottoby | 18-Jun-2012 2:37 pm

    Let's not get carried away here - I am entirely in favour of lay representation, but I draw the line at Daily Mail readers !

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  • I am becoming increasingly concerned about the role of CHRE and not surprised by this latest pronouncement on the NMC. A Nurse/Midwife needs to be in charge of their Regulatory Body otherwise why are nurses/midwives required to fund it.I am aware of the ongoing difficulties at the NMC as it tries to manage a hugh workload but perhaps the money it has to pay to CHRE to fund its existance could be better utilised by the NMC to deal with its Fitness to Practice backlog.Perhaps it is time all the Health Regulatory Bodies petitioned the Government to abolish CHRE.

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  • bob cat

    19-Jun-2012 11.55: thanks for that, interesting reading what the CHRE is proposing and the response of the Law Commission. The LC doesn't dictate a view though, only suggest a way forward in the specific context of the CHRE having an ability to appoint a registrar rather than ?elect from the members maybe?
    Given the shambles demonstrated by the current NMC a reorganisation is needed but not in the absence of registrant context and knowledge I would say.

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  • At last - complete sense! Of course the top job at the NMC must be somebody completely impartial to the profession.

    IF the NMC wants to be a 'true' regulator it should in fact be government funded, rather than funded by Nurses and Midwives. Until this occurs the NMC will only ever be regarded as a 'protector' of Nurses and Midwives rather than the 'public'.

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