NMC welcomes government decision on fitness to practise rules

Date:23/05/2013

The government has agreed in principle to implement two urgent legal changes supported by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The proposed reforms will improve the NMC's ability to protect the public, by making the fitness to practise process faster, more consistent and more economical. The changes follow the commitment made by the Prime Minister to "[sweep] away the NMC's outdated and inflexible decision making process".

The two proposed changes are:

  • To bring in a system of professional case examiners to make decisions at the investigation phase of the process to decide if cases should proceed to a final public hearing. The NMC expects this to allow more consistency of decisions and it expects the process to be faster and more cost-effective.
  • A new power to review decisions to close cases at investigation stage.

The final phase of a fitness to practise case would still be heard by an independent panel, which always comprises at least one nurse or midwife, and at least one lay member, advised by a legal assessor.

Chief Executive and Registrar of the NMC, Jackie Smith said: 

“We warmly welcome this. We at the NMC are ten years behind in how we can investigate concerns about the fitness to practise of nurses and midwives because of our outdated legal framework. The Prime Minister is delivering on his promise of reform, made when the Francis Report was published.

Jackie Smith added:

“Our first concern is to make the right decisions. Then, we need the power to review cases where this may not have been the case. 

“We understand that the further changes to our legal framework we have asked for are still under consideration by the government but these two changes are important and we’re grateful for this being acted on swiftly.”

 Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter MP said: 

"Following the Francis Report, we have worked hard with the NMC to explore how it can strengthen its fitness to practise procedures to improve patient safety. 

"We are now working with the NMC on proposals to make the process more efficient and flexible — ensuring that if patients do have concerns about a nurse, their case is investigated quickly and fairly.”

Relevant changes will take at least a year to introduce.