Fitness to practise: nurses wait longer for outcomes as cases pile up

Backlog of FtP cases grows as regulator grapples with staffing and drive to improve decisions

Backlog of FtP cases grows, finds Professional Standards Authority, as nursing regulator grapples with staffing issues and drive to make decision-making more person-centred

Picture: iStock

Nurses facing fitness to practise (FtP) procedures increasingly wait too long for the outcomes, an external review of Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) performance found.

The nurse regulator’s own regulator, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) said the NMC had failed to meet its standard on time taken to bring FtP cases to a fair conclusion. The PSA pointed to a growing backlog, with 1,556 cases stretching back more than a year compared to 950 at the time of the previous review, as well as lengthening procedure times.

However, the PSA’s 2019/20 review noted the NMC had met the other 17 performance standards set.

Concerns about the fitness to practise process

Picture: Charles Milligan

The Professional Standards Authority found:

  • The NMC is taking longer to reach case decisions. The median time from referral to a final decision is 90 weeks, up from 80 weeks previously
  • The number of cases adjourned for further investigation increased from 23 in the last review to 82

Person-centred approach to FtP is time-consuming

The NMC said staffing issues, and efforts to improve the quality of its decision-making and to make the FtP process more person-centred, had contributed to the growing backlog.

It is increasing the size of its teams and plans to outsource 50 cases to external law firms.

The implications of the PSA review, published in March, will be discussed by the NMC’s ruling council tomorrow, 19 May.

Professional and personal toll on nurses

Cathryn Watters of campaign group NMCWatch reflected on the impact on registrants of long waiting times for FtP rulings. She said: ‘Registrants may not be able to secure employment during this time. It can affect their mental health, financial stability and many aspects of their personal lives.’

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