Lack of competence

Lack of knowledge, skill or judgement which means a nurse or midwife is unfit to practise

Lack of competence is a lack of knowledge, skill or judgement of such a nature that the nurse or midwife is unfit to practise safely.

Nurses or midwives who are competent and fit to practise should:

  • have the skills, experience and qualifications relevant to the part of the register they have joined
  • demonstrate a commitment to keeping those skills up to date, and
  • deliver a service that is capable, safe, knowledgeable, understanding and completely focused on the needs of the people in their care.

Examples of lack of competence

Lack of competence may be an issue if over a prolonged period of time a nurse or midwife makes continuing errors or demonstrates poor practice which involves, for example:

  • lack of skill or knowledge
  • poor judgement
  • inability to work as part of a team, or
  • difficulty in communicating with colleagues or people in their care.


You might also identify a training need and set up a supervised support programme for the nurse or midwife, but their work may only show a temporary improvement which slips back when the programme is completed.


It might also be that the nurse or midwife demonstrates a persistent lack of ability in correctly or appropriately calculating, administering and recording the administration or disposal of medicines. Or they may demonstrate a persistent lack of ability in identifying care needs and subsequently planning or delivering appropriate care.


It is also important to consider whether the nurse or midwife shows insight into their lack of competence.


  • Remember, it's possible to deliver care that is clinically competent, but uncaring. Attitude and character are just as important as competence.
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