The Nursing and Midwifery Council has problems “at every level”, according to a highly critical report into the regulator published today.
The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence has completed a strategic review of the nursing regulator, which it began in January.
The final report from the review identifies failures in “leadership, strategy, decision making, finance and culture”.
“The NMC has long standing problems ‘at every level’….including confusion about its regulatory purpose, weak governance, poor planning, unreliable management information, and inadequate information technology,” the CHRE said in a statement on its findings.
The review looked into the regulator’s long standing inability to reduce its fitness to practise caseload. It was sparked by the departure just before Christmas of NMC chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes.
In particular, the CHRE criticised the NMC for being distracted from its core fitness to practice functions by issues such as the regulation of healthcare assistants, and its poor financial decision making. The regulator’s “weak” information technology capability was also criticised.
While highlighting the failings of the NMC, the CHRE insisted its report should be viewed as “forward looking” and set out 14 key recommendations.
These included ensuring that the “crucial” appointments of a new chair and chief executive – which are both currently held by interims – were carried out with sufficient due diligence.
In addition, it called on the internal culture of the NMC to be changed from one of “resigned resilience” to one that encouraged openness and listened to staff.
CHRE chief executive Harry Cayton said: “The NMC must finally leave its troubled past behind and apply itself to protecting the public and rebuilding confidence in regulation.
“New leaders must be appointed who are competent, credible and capable of addressing the NMC’s very serious organisational problems and transforming the NMC into the regulator that the public, nurses and midwives deserve.”
Responding to the CHRE report, acting NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said it made “difficult reading” for the regulator.
“We recognise the failings that CHRE have set out in their reports, and we are sorry. It is clear that the NMC has not delivered effective and efficient regulation, and we are committed to putting that right,” she said.
“We look forward to the appointment of the chair and chief executive later this summer. Change is already underway and will continue, to ensure the NMC’s focus is wholly on public protection.
“CHRE draw attention to the hard work and commitment of the NMC’s staff. I would like to add my personal thanks to all those who have responded so positively to the strategic review of the NMC and are working hard to ensure the protection of the public.”
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter, said: “The RCN welcomes this report which clearly goes to the heart of some fundamental weaknesses within the NMC.
“It is extremely concerning to read that the NMC has failings right across the board and we know that many of our members have been losing confidence in the regulator for some time.”
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “We welcome the CHRE’s report, and call for its recommendations to be implemented in full with urgency.”
Royal College if Midwives deputy general secretary Louise Silverton added: “[The CHRE report] raises major and important concerns about the NMC and is a forward-looking report and should be a wake-up call.”