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NMC fitness to practise cases: we’ll cut the backlog – regulator

Nurses facing torment of fitness to practise proceedings can feel left in limbo for years before their cases are concluded

Nurses facing torment of fitness to practise proceedings can feel left in limbo for years before their cases are concluded

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has pledged to reduce waiting times for fitness to practise (FtP) hearings that can leave registrants in limbo for as long as three years.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe told a ruling council meeting on 26 January that reducing caseloads and waiting times was the nursing regulator’s top priority, after the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) found average cases dragged on for 118 weeks.

More timely resolution

NMC board members said that ‘early engagement is key’ to speeding up the process, adding they were working with registrants, unions, and employers to resolve cases

Nurses facing torment of fitness to practise proceedings can feel left in limbo for years before their cases are concluded

Picture: iStock

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has pledged to reduce waiting times for fitness to practise (FtP) hearings that can leave registrants in limbo for as long as three years.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe told a ruling council meeting on 26 January that reducing caseloads and waiting times was the nursing regulator’s top priority, after the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) found average cases dragged on for 118 weeks.

More timely resolution

NMC board members said that ‘early engagement is key’ to speeding up the process, adding they were working with registrants, unions, and employers to resolve cases fairly and quickly.

In its report, the PSA – the healthcare regulators’ regulator – found the NMC is failing to complete cases in a timely way, with the backlog of pending investigations growing from 4,506 in April 2020 to 6,357 in March 2021.

‘We do know our early engagement with registrants and referrers is helping us make fully informed final decisions at an earlier stage’

Tom Scott, NMC interim director of regulation

The burgeoning caseload was in part due to the first wave of the pandemic, when physical hearings were suspended and only virtual hearings carried out for cases where there was immediate potential public risk.

It led to a four-fold increase in the number of FtP cases taking as long as three years to be concluded, going from 74 in 2019 to 296 cases in 2021. The average duration of cases rose by 27 weeks in the same period.

How NMC plans to reduce case backlog

NMC interim director of professional regulation Tom Scott outlined to council members a number of actions the NMC had taken to reduce caseloads, including improving guidance for reporting, exploring use of artificial intelligence technology for risk assessment and document redaction, and widening staff recruitment.

Mr Scott said: ‘We do know our early engagement with registrants and referrers is helping us make fully informed final decisions at an earlier stage, and this is reflected in the experience of our stakeholders.

‘We’re redoubling our efforts and we’ll keep investing in the resources we need to bring our caseload down quickly and fairly.’


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