Four out of five nurses struck off NMC register last year were over the age of 40, report reveals

Four out of five nurses struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) register last year were over the age of 40.

Four out of five nurses struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) register last year were over the age of 40

The figures were revealed in the NMC’s newly-published annual equality
and diversity report for 2015-16. Picture: Charles Milligan

Older nurses also made up 76% of new cases sent to the regulator last year, despite representing only 66% of the workforce.

The figures were revealed in the NMC’s newly-published annual equality and diversity report for 2015-16.

Older nurses are disproportionately represented, despite inquiries – such as the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust care scandal – that focus on education standards for newly-qualified staff.

Only 7% of the 4,512 new fitness to practise cases (FtP) sent to the NMC concerned staff aged 19-29. Nurses aged 20-29 make up 13% of the register as a whole.

Double the proportion 

A total of 480 – or 11% – of the total cases concerned nurses who were over the age of 60. This age group represents 8% of the register.

The report said that 16% of nurses who were struck off were over the age of 60 – double the proportion that they make up in the workforce.

Concerns about the high numbers of older nurses in FtP proceedings have been raised before, including by Nursing Standard in 2013.

RCN employment relations adviser Nicola Lee said there was no evidence that nurses become less competent in their work as they get older.

‘We know that many of our older workers over the age of 60 predominantly work in nursing homes and the independent sector, and there are disproportionate numbers of referrals from these settings, where they seem to use FtP referrals in the absence of performance management. Older nurses are also less likely to have the opportunity to take up training and development opportunities.’ 

Stress and burnout 

Joanna Goodrich, head of evidence and learning at the Point of Care Foundation, which leads work into providing emotional support to healthcare staff, says that overstretched older nurses may be struggling with stress and burnout.

‘Older nurses who have been around for a long time are feeling moral distress that they aren’t able to give the care that they want to, and they find it demoralising,’ she said.

‘This is why many take the option to retire when they have it. A good team can buffer nurses from stress, but many teams don’t even have time for a 10-minute meeting, especially those in the community. There are a combination of good management practices which can help with stress, such as having supervision, debriefs, an appraisal and being part of a team working towards the same goals and objectives. These can be quick to implement, such as a daily 10 minute team huddle.’

The NMC, which has a duty to be fair and non discriminatory in its work, has commissioned research into why some groups are over represented in FtP proceedings. This is due to be published in the new year.

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