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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)

  • michael stone

    Fine, so long as the top job at the GMC cannot be held by a practising doctor.

    Exactly equivalent conflict of interests.

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  • I'm a brand spanking new Staff Nurse and I think that by the time I would be ready to hold such a post if I chose to, I shouldn't be stopped just because I'd have decades of experiences in the profession that the NMC is supposed to regulate.

    Who better to work on new policy than someone who knows how those policies directly affect the way a Nurse carries out their duties.

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  • Im not against the idea. I'll be happy if someone can do a good job. As a profession we seem to be very unlucky with our leadership. Maybe it's a reflection of the quality of our profession, and our leaders in particular.

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  • Interestingly, the interim CEO was in charge of the major failing department - fitness to practise so how is that a good idea. I think personally, the best person for the job should be appointed but how anyone can regulate nurses without some sort of insight into what we do and the system then I am not sure who you would choose? Let's hope it is not some ex-Health Minister?

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  • Anonymous | 11-Jun-2012 11:19 am

    just be thankful that Mr. Lansley is not yet an ex.

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  • Maybe its time for all regulators to be funded by the state as it is there for the protection of the public and we are all members of the public.
    The NMC should not be called a professional body anymore, it should just be a regulatory body. There should be a very senior, experienced + competent nurse at the top. We also don't need a super regulator for healthcare, just amalgamate all the healthcare regulators + cut down admin, bureaucracy + pen pushing staff.

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  • All the more reason for the NMC to be funded by public money.

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  • andy | 11-Jun-2012 12:55 pm

    good idea. how about one single regulating organisation with different departments for each profession and one for regulating the employers and the organisation and management of the NHS as a whole. This would seem more logical, less cumbersome, more streamlined, more integrated and targeted towards the common goal of quality patient care of the highest quality and more cost effective and funded by the public with the professionals just paying a fee to join the register and if necessary reasonalble annual fees to maintain their names on it.

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  • I can recall in the NHS "service managers" who come from other disciplines such as occupational therapy, social workers, heading units. None of them had a clue, and one such case arose when shower cords were removed and awful fitted things installed with a push switch which stopped every five mins (extremely annoying) Now as a nurse I know the importance of a hand held shower, Eg, promoting circulation, washing under large skin flaps etc. What I am getting at is...what the hell has happened ?
    Matrons and senior nurses ran hospitals once upon a time. Of course any top position within the NMC should be headed by a trained nurse, and a trained nurse with several qualifications, RMN, RGN etc. Only a nurse can understand a nurse. The NMC is becoming very scary indeed. We are so concious of being "Investigated" for some petty things like forgetting to sign an RX sheet that we spend more valuable time on administration work instead od participating in client care..lets face it as lond as all the paperwork is complete the NMC is happy...lip service to nursing care.

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  • Fitness to practice regulator-get judge Judy in to get rid of all those awful creatures awaiting their hearings. Impose a fine with striking off order and reduce the registration fee for nurses who do a good job. Not rocket science!! Job for me when i retire!!!!

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