Nursing watchdog 'failing' patients
Patients are being let down by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) because of "failings at every level", a report has found.
A root and branch overhaul is required for the NMC to fulfil its key duty to protect the public, the review by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) found.
The NMC is responsible for the regulation of the 670,000 nurses and midwives currently registered in the UK. But a succession of weak leadership has failed to created the modern, effective and efficient regulator that the public, nurses and midwives need and deserve, the review found.
Despite a "strong passion for public protection" among staff, the report found problems "at every level, in every system".
The report revealed that the number of cases being dealt with by the NMC had risen by almost 50% since 2009, to more than 4,000 cases. But delays in investigating complaints caused a backlog, and 1,500 are yet to be heard. Bad morale has led to resignation and acceptance of poor standards among staff and almost a third of them leaving within the last year.
Jackie Smith, the NMC's acting chief executive and registrar, apologised for what she called its "substantial failings".
She said: "The strategic review report and annual performance review report together make difficult reading for the NMC. 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."
Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwifery, said the report should be "a wake-up call", adding: "We agree that the NMC must focus on its core regulatory functions and responsibilities, notably protecting the public and ensuring it maintains its confidence and that of the profession it regulates."
The union Unison, which represents nurses and midwives, welcomed the report but criticised an increase in its members' registration fees to £120 to "help pay for its mistakes". Gail Adams, Unison head of nursing, said: "We fail to see why nurses and midwives should have to bail the NMC out of a financial crisis of its own creation."
Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: "Strong regulation of nurses and midwives is crucial to ensure public protection, and effective leadership within the Nursing and Midwifery Council is key to this. "We would like to thank the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence for its work and we expect to see the NMC implementing all of the recommendations contained within this report."