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NMC responds to criticism over lack of support in fitness to practise cases

New measures will include mental health support and option of legal assistance

New measures will include mental health support and option of legal assistance


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The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is establishing new support measures for nurses and midwives facing a fitness to practise investigation.

The packages will include emotional support and the option of legal assistance with the fitness to practise (FtP) process.

Response to registrants’ feedback

The NMC has faced criticism in the past for failing to provide support to registrants under investigation. Its FtP director Matthew McClelland said the measures were in response to feedback from nurses and midwives on the emotional impact of the FtP process.

Details of the support packages were revealed at the chief nursing officer for England’s summit in Birmingham earlier this month.

Mr McClelland said the form of emotional support is yet to be decided, however the NMC wants it to be independent of the regulator.

He said about 40% of registrants who appear before FtP hearings are unrepresented. Legal support could include partnering registrants with pro bono services offered by law schools. 

‘Many already have excellent sources of support, for example from professional bodies and unions,’ Mr McClelland said. ‘For some, however, a little bit more could make a big difference and we think there is more we can do to help.’

Training for NMC staff

The support packages could be out as early as September, and will form part of a longer-term NMC registrant support project. Other measures will include training for NMC staff to recognise mental health concerns and direct registrants to support services. 

Nursing Standard has previously reported that nurses have said the FtP process can contribute to stress, depression, anxiety and even suicidal ideation.

Cathryn Watters, founder of the group NMCWatch, which campaigns for better support for those referred to the regulator, said more support for registrants undergoing FtP was ‘really positive’.

Do you need help?

  • Contact Samaritans any time, free from any phone, on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or visit the website to find out how to talk to a trained volunteer face to face
  • RCN members experiencing a mental health concern can contact the college’s confidential counselling service on 0345 772 6100
  • Access NHS advice at Help for Suicidal Thoughts

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