Nearly three quarters of nurses believe it is vital that someone with a nursing background holds one of the top two positions at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, according to a poll by Nursing Times.
The troubled nursing regulator is currently undergoing a strategic review of its performance by the super-regulator the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.
The review was sparked by the NMC’s continued failure to make enough progress on reducing its longstanding backlog of fitness to practise cases combined with the resignation of its chief executive Dickon Weir-Hughes, a former nursing director, in January.
Asked whether they thought the NMC needed to undergo a strategic review, 53% of survey respondents said they thought it should. However, 39% said they were unsure. Only 8% said it should not be reviewed.
One respondent said: “The NMC processes take much too long to come to any conclusion. Having been involved in one very straight forward case it will be almost two years before it is even heard. There is no explanation for delays, person involved admitted wrong doing.”
A further respondent added: “Too much money has gone to review, prop up a consistently failing organisation.”
A key area the review is looking into is whether the leadership and management structure of the NMC needs to change.
CHRE chief executive Harry Cayton has previously told Nursing Times he does not believe the next NMC chair or chief executive has to be a nurse, noting that other regulators, such as the General Medical Council, are not led by members of the professions they regulate.
But the majority of survey respondents, 71%, said it was vital a nurse or former nurse was either chief executive or chair of the NMC, as “only someone with a nursing background could fully understand the challenges facing the regulator”.
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.
Both unions are also supporters of the need for the mandatory regulation of healthcare assistants, something Professor Weir-Hughes had also supported but which the NMC has backed away from since his departure.
The government and the CHRE back voluntary HCA regulation instead, and ministers announced in the autumn moves to develop a code of conduct and training standards.
But the majority of respondents to Nursing Times’ survey were in favour of mandatory HCA regulation, either now or in the future.
Only 3% of respondents said the level of need for mandatory regulation was “low” and the government’s plan to develop a voluntary code of conduct and training standards would suffice.
The majority, 59%, said the need was “high” and there remained an “urgent need for mandatory regulation to ensure patient safety regardless of financial cost”.
The remaining 38% described the need as “medium” and said the voluntary system under development should act as a “stepping stone” towards mandatory regulation in the long term.
One respondent said: “Healthcare assistants carry out a great deal of care… how is it their practice is not regulated?”
Another added: “Registered nurses should not be held accountable for unregistered staff’s practices. Healthcare assistants should have their own regulatory body.”
The online survey has been carried out over the last six days. So far nearly 400 nurses have completed it.