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MPs concerned over speed of improvement of nursing regulator

Common’s health committee report says progress is ‘fragile’

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The House of Commons Health Committee has expressed concern over the “fragile” progress of improvement made by the nursing regulator – the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

In its first review of a professional regulator, the Health Committee said that it was important for the NMC to ensure that the new challenges it is facing, such as revalidation, do not become a distraction from the continuing need to improve its performance in core functions, particularly in the area of fitness to practise.

The length of time the NMC takes to conclude its fitness to practise cases has been an enduring concern for the Committee. From 2015, the NMC proposes to toughen the target period for resolving cases to 15 months. The MPs welcomed this target and urged the NMC to commit to delivering this objective in every case.

In light of the Francis report, MPs stressed the importance of ensuring that registrants understand their professional obligation to raise concerns when they see evidence of poor patient care, and that patients and public are made more aware of the role of the NMC as the regulator of professional and clinical standards. The Committee said the NMC needed to take urgent steps do better in this area and raise the profile of the NMC both among its registrants and among patients and public.

The Committee said that while determining and monitoring staffing levels are not direct responsibilities of the NMC, health professionals who have concerns about staffing levels have a professional obligation to raise these concerns in an appropriate manner, and the NMC must make this clear to its registrants.

The NMC has announced plans to introduce a system of revalidation by the end of 2015. The plans are still at an early stage, and the Committee will seek an update on progress in this area at the end of the first quarter of 2014.

Chair of the Health Committee, Stephen Dorrell MP, said: “The NMC has had a troubled recent history, and while we welcome the evidence that there has been an improvement in its performance, it is essential that the new challenges it now faces do not cause the NMC to take its eye off the ball.

“Following the publication of the Francis report, all aspects of healthcare are facing increasing scrutiny; the pressure is therefore on for the NMC to demonstrate to an increasingly skeptical public that it can function effectively to underwrite clinical standards.

“The Committee will review the progress made by the NMC with its plans for revalidation during Spring 2014 and we shall conduct a further full review in Autumn 2014.”

NMC chief executive and registrar, Jackie Smith, said: “We remain focused on delivering our key objectives, which has enabled us to make progress to date. We have set ourselves a challenging business plan for 2014–2015 and we are confident that we are on the right track. The plan will include progressing our work in areas such as: launching a consultation in January about revalidation, reviewing the nursing and midwifery Code, and consulting on a duty of candour.

“The government’s commitment to modernise our legal framework will allow us to further reduce our target to complete the majority of our fitness to practise cases to 12 months. With the necessary changes, we believe we can deliver a better performance of this core function.”

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