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Culture review will make ‘sobering reading’, says outgoing NMC chief

Culture review will make ‘sobering reading’, says outgoing NMC chief

An upcoming independent culture review of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) will make ‘sobering reading’ and should be seen as a ‘golden opportunity to move things forward’, the outgoing chief executive has said.

Speaking yesterday at her final council meeting before stepping down due to illness, Andrea Sutcliffe outlined the organisational changes she was most proud of and the priorities for her successor.

It comes as Helen Herniman was confirmed as the NMC’s acting chief executive on Wednesday, following backlash over the interim hire of Dawn Brodrick.

At the meeting on Wednesday, Ms Sutcliffe highlighted the upcoming independent review – led by Nazir Azal – into its culture, which followed concerns raised about issues including racism, sexism and a lack of freedom to speak up.

She told how the report would make ‘sobering reading’ that it ‘will set a real challenge for the organisation, for the leadership team and for the council’.

‘I think what’s really important is that there is a collective positive response that uses this as the golden opportunity to move things forward,’ Ms Sutcliffe said.

She stressed the importance of council taking the findings ‘seriously’ to deliver ‘sustainable change’ which sees people have ‘consistent experience within the organisation’.

‘We know that some people have a good experience, but we know that some people have a bad experience, and that’s not acceptable,’ she added.

‘We need to make sure we’re making the difference that eliminates that.’

Towards the end of last year, the NMC announced three reviews into concerns raised around its culture and fitness to practise (FtP) processes.

In September 2023, The Independent online newspaper reported that nurses and midwives accused of serious sexual, physical and racial abuse had been allowed to keep working on wards because whistleblowers were ‘being ignored’ by the NMC.

The report also claimed that ‘deep-seated toxic conduct’ within the NMC was leading to skewed and failed investigations.

At the time the NMC committed to a ‘rigorous, transparent and independent’ response to the concerns and Ms Sutcliffe issued an apology.

‘FtP a number one priority’

As part of Wednesday’s council meeting, Ms Sutcliffe stressed that FtP was ‘the number one priority we have’.

The meeting heard how the nursing regulator had failed to meet its target of reducing the (FtP) backlog by 4,000 cases by March 2024.

And that the regulator receives an average of 493 referrals per month, with an increase of 14% year on year.

At the end of December 2023, the FtP caseload stood at 5,711.

As previously reported, the regulator is investing £30m FtP to tackle the ongoing backlog.

More widely, Ms Sutcliffe used her last meeting to highlight the ‘significant investment’ that the NMC has put into its ‘variety of work streams’ – including ‘supporting appropriate referrals’ ensuring proper ‘safeguarding’ and ‘efficient processes for screening investigations’.

She added that the council must act with agility to ‘make sure that we are making the difference we are trying to make’.

Ms Sutcliffe is being replaced on an acting basis by executive director of resources and technology services, Helen Herniman.

Ms Herniman’s hire comes after Dawn Brodrick, who was due to replace Ms Sutcliffe on an interim basis, resigned four days into her appointment, following concerns over her link to a high-profile NHS race discrimination case.

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