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Fitness to practise backlog may mean delays until 2022

Regulator hiring temporary staff and using outside law firms to deal with rising caseload
Picture shows a young woman sat at a table and being questioned

Regulator hiring temporary staff and using outside law firms to deal with rising caseload

Nurses facing fitness to practise (FtP) investigations by the professions regulator could have to wait longer for their case to be concluded possibly until 2022.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has a growing backlog of FtP cases, with 5,724 at the end of October, according to documents presented to its governing council on 2 December. Of those, 2,713 cases are at the screening stage, the first step in the FtP process.

More efficient screening process and improved guidance

To deal with the backlog, the NMC is planning to hire 59 temporary staff at a cost of 1.1 million and outsource

Regulator hiring temporary staff and using outside law firms to deal with rising caseload

Picture shows a young woman sat at a table and being questioned
Picture: iStock

Nurses facing fitness to practise (FtP) investigations by the profession’s regulator could have to wait longer for their case to be concluded – possibly until 2022.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has a growing backlog of FtP cases, with 5,724 at the end of October, according to documents presented to its governing council on 2 December. Of those, 2,713 cases are at the screening stage, the first step in the FtP process.

More efficient screening process and improved guidance

To deal with the backlog, the NMC is planning to hire 59 temporary staff at a cost of £1.1 million and outsource 50 cases to external law firms, which will cost £366,000.

NMC deputy director of professional regulation Clare Strickland said it is also working to improve the FtP process generally. ‘We are ensuring our screening process and guidance are as efficient as possible, and better supporting those considering making a referral,’ she said.

In March 2020, before the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NMC’s caseload was 4,506. Since June the regulator has failed to hit a self-imposed target of having 80% of cases completed within 15 months of opening.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the growing caseload, partly due to the NMC’s move to virtual hearings, prioritising FtP cases deemed to pose immediate risk and imposing or reviewing interim orders to enable nurses and midwives to return to work.

‘Delays have an emotional impact on those involved’

The NMC report warned that the caseload is likely to remain high until at least 2022.

Ms Strickland said the NMC was aware of the impact of long-running FtP processes. ‘We recognise that any delays to our process have an emotional impact on those involved, including registrants and people and their families affected by concerns raised, and I’m sorry for any distress this causes,’ she said.

Cathryn Watters, a member of NMCWatch, a group that supports registrants going through FtP proceedings, expressed concern over the delays.

‘Nurses and midwives are needed in the workforce now more than ever, and many of these cases will mean that those being investigated cannot work,’ she said. ‘We hear from them daily asking how much longer.’


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