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Nursing regulator 'improving', says health select committee


The regulator for nurses and midwives has “fallen down” on its task of enforcing acceptable standards of practice in recent years, MPs have claimed.

Over a number of years, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has failed to understand its function and properly prioritise patient safety, according to the Commons’ health select committee.

Committee chair Stephen Dorrell said: “The NMC’s job is to protect patient safety by registering nurses and midwives and by enforcing acceptable standards of practice. The simple fact is that in recent years it has fallen down on that task.”

The committee has carried out an accountability hearing with the NMC.

Mr Dorrell said: “We welcome the fact that the new management team in the NMC is committed to address its failings, and that the latest evidence shows that its performance is improving.

“However there continues to be a serious gap between current performance and acceptable standards. The NMC has proposed that fitness to practise cases should be decided on average within 18 months of a complaint being received; the committee proposes that the average time taken to decide a fitness to practise case should be reduced to nine months, and the maximum time should be set at 12 months.

“In the words of the new chair of the NMC, its fitness to practise functions are the engine room of the organisation, but the regulator still faces a huge backlog of cases, some of which should have been resolved years ago.

“Measures to work through this have been put in place by the NMC’s new management team and we are optimistic that these changes will eventually bear fruit. Nevertheless, we believe the NMC must set to this task with greater urgency.”

The committee said chronic under-investment had characterised the NMC’s past approach to fitness to practise cases.

Mr Dorrell said: “It is unacceptable that the NMC underestimated the budget for its fitness to practise directorate by 30%. The committee will be seeking reassurance at the next accountability hearing that this management failure has been addressed.”

The committee also said the language and communication skills of nurses and midwives remained a concern.

Mr Dorrell said: “Some progress has been made within the EU, and we welcome the government’s willingness to take administrative action in the UK to address this issue. This remains an issue of real concern for its impact on patient safety.”





Readers' comments (3)

  • My experience of the NMC through registrants who have been wrongly accused of malpractice, even when they have the evidence to refute the allegations and there is no substantiated evidence, or they have been scapegoated, or are a whistleblower, or have made the 1st mistake ever but this has given the trust an excuse for getting rid of them when they are on a staff reduction exercise – is that the NMC panels ie solicitors and barristers, have not the faintest clue about ward conditions or lying managers. Mitigating circumstances, and an unblemished and long service record count for nothing with these people too.
    The cases take days.No wonder fees have increased so astronomically. People are interviewed who have no clinical experience such as human resources staff.
    And the unions? Where are they? Well they are playing the game and as they may well think the poor registrant is guilty in some way, often do nothing to defend them. Very often, they work closely with management anyway.
    People’s only hope is to take their own expert witness along to give an alternative view and then hope for the best. It’s a slim chance
    Julie Fagan, and CAUSE founder member

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  • a deplorable situation which can ruin the lives and careers and even destroy the self esteem of many young and promising nurses and even the older and more experienced ones as well for no apparent reason.
    there needs to be a strong and clear distinction between mistakes which everybody without exception makes and cases of wilful negligence and maltreatment.

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  • I C/O seclusion abuses and poor prescribing and diagnosing plus poor staff practices with two resulting internal inquiries that were whitewash cover-ups. The trust then fired me for having looked at a victims clinical file (legitimately) so changed on appeal to looking for too long "exessive time volume". My case was referred to NMC who returned and put together four charges based on pre not post appeal-against-dismissal findings and then demanding innocent/guilty plea against each plus subsections. The trust CEO previously sent me written thanks for complaining directly to him for bringing matters to his attention and precipitating second inquiry then immedietelly fired me. Going on now since suspension in September 2010. I am completely stuck with a dismissal on my record and referred to NMC Practice & Conduct c'tee. Dismissing manager concluded in new NMC statement that my practice was "out of date" but previous internal inquiry congratulated single example of up-to-date-practice not knowing who did it. You was my work! I didnt film anyone or go to Panorama..just complained to managers who replied with 4 spurious allegations after 9 months inc "aggression" to colleague six weeks prev and contradicted bt eye witness then another 3 in subsequent 23 day alternative to suspension placement and a final "audit" of computer use since commencement which provided "gross misconduct" ie file accessing "for too long". Others "allegations" all necessarily minimal or reduced on appeal (and should have been dropped) when I questioned the trust Chairman and CEO directly at the hearing. The trust then "lost" the appeal hearing transcript replacing it with alternative account that doesnt mention Chairman and CEO involvement or cross-examination of suspending manager so what are the NMC doing?

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