Fewer incompetent nurses will be struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), a court case has decided.
The ruling means a nurse or midwife can only be removed from the register for lack of competence or health issues if they have been suspended for at least two years beforehand.
It will also mean that nurses who have been struck off for incompetence over the past few years could in fact be given their jobs back.
The ban follows a case at the High Court in London where a midwife who allowed a baby to almost be strangled with its own umbilical cord had her ban on working overturned.
As a result, a nurse from Scotland who was struck off last year now faces a new hearing which could allow her to continue to practice.
An NMC spokeswoman confirmed: “At the moment we can’t strike people off from lack of competence cases. We’re not entirely happy with it and we’re looking to try and close that gap in our powers.
“To put it in basic terms, we can’t strike anyone off in lack of competence cases. The [High Court] judgement was saying this isn’t a lawful sanction that can be given.”
A Royal College of Nursing spokesperson told Nursing in Practice: “This ruling needs to be looked into in detail. However, the most important thing is for the general public to be reassured that when a nurse is suspended they cannot work, therefore do not pose a risk to patients.”
The NMC will be discussing the matter with the Department of Health.
The ruling will apply to lack of competence cases (17%) and cases where fitness to practice is impaired due to physical or mental health problems (3%).