Nurse regulator progress 'fragile'
The regulator for midwives and nurses is making "fragile" progress towards improving how it runs, MPs have said.
The House of Commons Health Committee criticised the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for the length of time it takes to conclude its fitness to practise cases into misconduct by nurses and midwives.
And it said the regulator must raise awareness among staff of how they should speak up about concerns in the wake of the inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire scandal.
The NMC has pledged to resolve misconduct cases within 15 months, something that was welcomed by the MPs.
"In order to reduce the target time further, to 12 months, changes to the NMC's legislation are required - we recommend that the NMC work with the Department of Health to make these changes as a priority," their report said.
Overall, the committee said it was "concerned that progress so far remains fragile", and said the NMC should continue to concentrate on improving its core functions as well looking at giving nurses and midwives new-style appraisals - known as revalidation.
The issue of appropriate language checks for health professionals was also raised as an area of ongoing concern by the Health Committee.
Launching the report, Health Committee chairman Stephen Dorrell 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 sceptical public that it can function effectively to underwrite clinical standards."
Conservative MP Mr Dorrell added: " 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 welcome the report and are pleased that the committee has recognised the progress we have made.
"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."
She added: "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.
"We also welcome the acknowledgement of the need for legislative change to address the issue of language testing nurses and midwives coming from within the EU."