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NMC asks its own regulator to review controversial FtP ruling

It had recommended nurse director Helen Lockett be struck off, but FtP panel was more lenient
Liverpool Community Health nurse director Helen Lockett

It had recommended nurse director Helen Lockett be struck off, but FtP panel was more lenient

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has asked its own regulator to review a controversial ruling not to strike off a former nurse director who bullied staff and failed to act on patient safety risks.

The NMC, which had put the case for Helen Lockett to be struck off, cannot reopen cases and so has now referred the case to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which has the power to appeal against the suspension ruling at the High Court.

FtP panels explanation is inadequate

An independent fitness to practise (FtP) panel suspended Ms Lockett, director of operations and executive nurse at the now-defunct Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust, from the register for 12 months.

It had recommended nurse director Helen Lockett be struck off, but FtP panel was more lenient


Helen Lockett, an experienced and respected nurse, the FtP panel said

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has asked its own regulator to review a controversial ruling not to strike off a former nurse director who bullied staff and failed to act on patient safety risks.

The NMC, which had put the case for Helen Lockett to be struck off, cannot reopen cases and so has now referred the case to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which has the power to appeal against the suspension ruling at the High Court. 

‘FtP panel’s explanation is inadequate’

An independent fitness to practise (FtP) panel suspended Ms Lockett, director of operations and executive nurse at the now-defunct Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust, from the register for 12 months.

NMC director of fitness to practise Clare Strickland believes the panel was rigorous in its approach but did not adequately explain its reasons for deeming the suspension appropriate, given its findings and NMC guidance on sanctions.

‘We have therefore asked the PSA to consider exercising their power to appeal to the High Court,' she explained.

‘Victims have not seen justice done’

Labour MP for West Lancashire, Rosie Cooper, who herself referred Ms Lockett to the NMC because of a relative's care experience, has called for the nurse regulator to be abolished and replaced, claiming inconsistency between the evidence and the subsequent decision.

‘I hope the Professional Standards Authority will agree to look at this matter with great urgency as the harm being done to victims is being exacerbated by not seeing justice done,' she added.

FtP panels: designed to take stand-alone decisions 


The NMC’s headquarters in London Picture: Barney Newman

  • FtP panels are specifically designed so that their decisions are made independently of the NMC
  • They usually have three members, at least one of whom will be a lay person and one a registrant
  • The NMC does not have power to reopen cases, so when it has concerns over panel decisions, it can refer the case to its own regulator, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA)
  • The PSA then has the power to appeal to the High Court if it considers an FtP decision is insufficient for public protection

 


What the FtP panel found

The panel held Ms Lockett responsible for management failings that compromised patient safety because she had failed to report:

  • Inadequate staffing levels.
  • Non-completion of staff training.
  • Difficulties in obtaining equipment.
  • Concerns about medication administration.

It also heard that on one occasion she told a more junior colleague they were a 'big disappointment' and had wasted a 35-year career in nursing.

Read the hearing report


‘Helen Lockett was an experienced and respected nurse’

The FtP panel said it would not remove Ms Lockett from the register in recognition of the difficulties the trust had faced before she joined, in 2011, and following her departure in 2014.

It added it was not in the public interest permanently to remove 'such an experienced and respected nurse' from practice.

Ms Lockett has 28 days to appeal against the decision. 


Related Material

NMC hearing: Helen Lockett


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