The Nursing and Midwifery Council has appointed Jackie Smith as its permanent chief executive and registrar.
Ms Smith, formerly the NMC’s head of fitness to practise, spent 10 years as an assistant director at the General Medical Council. She was made acting NMC chief executive and registrar in January 2012, following the shock departure of the previous incumbent Dickon Weir-Hughes.
But she looked set to lose out on a permanent appointment during a major overhaul of the regulator’s leadership in the wake of critical review by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence. This was despite receiving praise from unions and nurse leaders for the improvements she had started to implement at the NMC.
However, it abandoned a search for a new chief executive in October citing a “competitive field of candidates”, and handed Ms Smith a one-year fixed term contract.
Last month the NMC’s new-look council took office and said securing the future leadership of its executive team was one of its highest priorities.
Announcing Ms Smith’s permanent appointment on Wednesday, NMC chair Mark Addison said: “I am delighted to announce this strong appointment, which will give us stability for the future.
“Under Jackie’s leadership we have started to make real progress in fitness to practise, in stabilising the organisation’s finances, and in setting out a credible plan to become an efficient and effective regulator, focused on protecting the public.”
He added: “Jackie was interviewed by a panel including two members independent of the NMC, to ensure the council received external assurance of a sound appointment.”
Royal College of Midwives’ chief executive Cathy Warwick said: “The RCM welcomes Jackie Smith’s permanent appointment.
“We believe that she has done a good job steering the NMC through a difficult period in its history. She will now provide the regulator with the stability and vision that it needs.
“We look forward to continuing to work with her and other stakeholders,” she added.
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “We wish Jackie Smith well in her role as chief executive and we will continue working closely with her to address the challenges facing the regulator.
But he added: “People expect recruitment processes in public bodies to be robust and open, and we are disappointed that the NMC has chosen to go ahead with this reappointment without seeking external applicants.
“This would have been an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that the NMC is committed to becoming a more transparent organisation.”
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams echoed this view. She said: “I have faith in Jackie’s leadership and her ability to work with council to take the NMC forward and I congratulate her on the appointment. Unison has developed a strong working relationship with her and the new chair.
“Sadly Jackie’s re-appointment without re seeking any external applicants, is a missed opportunity for the NMC to demonstrate that they have listened to criticism and introduced new, more transparent procedures.”
She added: “Any NHS organisation failing to go through a rigorous recruitment process would rightly be criticised and its right and proper that we should expect only the highest standards from the regulator.
“This is the way to help re-build registrant’s confidence which has taken a knock over the past few years.”
Meanwhile, the NMC has also launched a recruitment exercise to find a nurse or midwife from Northern Ireland to join its governing council.
The post is for around three days a month and the remuneration is £12,000 a year, plus expenses. The closing date for applicants is 8 July.
Information on how to apply is available from the NMC’s website.