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NMC launches consultation on ‘costly and out of date’ fitness to practise process

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has launched a consultation into proposed changes to its fitness to practise processes.
NMC_hearing

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has launched a consultation into proposed changes to its 'costly and out of date' fitness to practise processes.

In April this year, the Department of Health (DH) began a consultation on the NMCs legal framework in a bid to modernise the regulator and save an estimated 6.9 million a year.

If proposed changes are agreed, they will allow the regulator to conclude some fitness to practise (FtP) cases at an earlier stage. The most serious cases would still go to hearing.

The NMC has now launched its own consultation into the proposed changes.

Additional powers

It is seeking views on proposals to give additional powers to case examiners, who decide on whether there is a case to answer in FtP allegations made against registered nurses or midwives.

These powers could include

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has launched a consultation into proposed changes to its 'costly and out of date' fitness to practise processes.

NMC_hearing
Picture: Charles Milligan

In April this year, the Department of Health (DH) began a consultation on the NMC’s legal framework in a bid to modernise the regulator and save an estimated £6.9 million a year.

If proposed changes are agreed, they will allow the regulator to conclude some fitness to practise (FtP) cases at an earlier stage. The most serious cases would still go to hearing.

The NMC has now launched its own consultation into the proposed changes.

Additional powers

It is seeking views on proposals to give additional powers to case examiners, who decide on whether there is a case to answer in FtP allegations made against registered nurses or midwives.

These powers could include the ability to recommend formal binding agreements, or undertakings, between the NMC and registrants. For example, a registrant may agree to undertake activities, such as further training, or operate under supervision. Such undertakings could obviate the need for a practice committee to investigate the case further.

Written advice

Nurses could also be issued with warnings or advice from a case examiner, even if there is no case to answer at the end of an investigation. This would occur when the NMC is concerned about a registrant’s past or present conduct.

Warnings could be given when, for example, a nurse’s accepted conduct at the time of an alleged incident may indicate impaired fitness to practice, but an investigation has shown the nurse poses no current risk to patients.

It is also proposed that when case examiners decide there is no case to answer, they may give the registrant written advice on areas of the NMC code that are relevant to the investigation.

Major reform

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said: ‘I have maintained for a long time that our current legislation is outdated and in need of major reform.

‘We know that it currently takes too long and costs too much to conclude cases.

‘The launch of this consultation is a crucial step towards modernising our processes, which will better enable us to protect the public.’

Other proposed changes include:

  • Merging the Conduct and Competence Committee and Health Committee.
  • Removing limits on the number of panellists and the obligation to hold hearings in the UK country in which the nurse is registered.
  • Reviewing interim orders every 6 months and gaining the power to extend, revoke or replace them.

Stress

Earlier this month, Ms Smith and former RCN general secretary Peter Carter spoke about problems with FtP at a debate organised by London South Bank University.

Dr Carter accused employers of being too quick to refer complaints to the NMC instead of conducting internal reviews, while Ms Smith admitted the hearing process was too adversarial and stressful for nurses.

The findings of the DH consultation are yet to be published, while the NMC consultation runs until 19 December.


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