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NMC fails to protect the interest of the public, says watchdog

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is carrying out its statutory functions but fails to fulfill these to the standard of performance that the public has the right to expect of a regulator, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) has said.

The report identifies serious weaknesses in the NMC's governance and culture, in the conduct of its Council, its ability to protect the interest of the public through the operation of fitness to practise processes and its ability to retain the confidence of key stakeholders.

The report also says the NMC has strengths in its standards and guidance and its registration processes and acknowledges the progress which the NMC has made in improving its performance over time.

CHRE Chief Executive Harry Cayton said: "We have serious concerns about the inadequate operation of the NMC's fitness to practice processes, governance framework and lack of strategic leadership, the inconsistent availability and provision of information to Council to ensure effective planning and decision making and its ability as an organisation to retain the confidence of key stakeholders."

The CHRE report also comments on the allegations of racism and bullying at the NMC which were made by Jim Devine MP in an Adjournment Debate in Westminster Hall on 11 March 2008.

CHRE says it heard and saw no evidence of racism but draws no conclusions on the matter. It states: "We have seen and heard evidence of behaviour that is undoubtedly experienced as bullying by many people involved."

The Report makes recommendations to the NMC and the Department of Health to address the problems it identifies.

Council for Health and Regulartory Excellence

"The NMC has been hamstrung from its inception: some staff from the 'old regime' were resentful of the need to change and very obstructive: the budget was inadequate; the Council riven by factions and including some very inadequate members who were just not up to the job. Given this disfunctional background it is not surprising that crucial weaknesses have been revealed - the NMC needs a complete clear-out of council members and obstructive personnel to enable it to really do its job. Making reformist leaders resign won't solve anything: they needed backing from the department that was in fact absent." - Martin Bailey, London