Fitness to practise cases: proposed changes ‘will benefit patients and nursing staff’

Planned legislation will allow regulator to make process faster and less punitive

Planned legislation will allow regulator to make process faster and less punitive

Picture: Charles Milligan

New legislation will enable nurses’ fitness to practise cases to be resolved more quickly, following a planned overhaul of UK healthcare regulation announced today. 

The changes aim to allow professional watchdogs to be faster, simpler and more responsive, and to offer better support to healthcare professionals.

Less bureaucracy

The day-to-day functions of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), and that of other regulators, are currently set out in legislation that is subject to the agreement of parliament, which can complicate the process of making operational changes.

Under the proposed legislation, the regulators will be able to set more of their own operating procedures, such as the number of people on a fitness to practise panel, without the need for parliamentary approval. 

Benefiting patients and staff

Bronagh Scott.
Picture: Barney Newman

RCN interim director of nursing policy and practice Bronagh Scott welcomed the changes. 

‘Making quicker decisions in fitness to practise cases will benefit patients, as well as nursing staff who find themselves at the centre of an investigation,’ she said.

‘We are also pleased to see the move to a less punitive, more efficient and more supportive system of regulation.

‘While the protection of patients must remain the overriding goal of the regulatory system, the fairer approach outlined will make the whole process and experience for patients and staff more bearable – quicker resolution will benefit all involved.’

Health minister Stephen Hammond said: ‘We are delivering on our commitment to modernise professional regulation. 

‘These changes will allow regulators to dedicate more of their resources to supporting the professionals working in our NHS and contribute to safe, high-quality patient care.'

Greater flexibility

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said the changes would enable the organisation to operate with greater flexibility and autonomy – shaping regulatory requirements more easily through guidance and policy, rather than detailed rules.

The UK and devolved governments will work together to develop and then consult on the draft legislation. 

The planned changes follow a consultation on improving the work of healthcare regulators, which concluded last year and garnered 900 responses.

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