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NMC begins recruitment of FtP panel members with an eye on diversity

NMC begins recruitment of FtP panel members with an eye on diversity

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is recruiting for nurses, nursing associates and midwives to work on its fitness to practise cases (FtP), having opened up applications for over 100 positions.

The Council has said it is especially keen to encourage applicants from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and has partnered with a recruitment agency that specialises in supporting organisations to achieve their equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) ‘recruitment goals’.

The NMC also wants to hear from nursing associate applicants, as the regulator says it currently does not have any nursing associate panel members.

The 85 panel members and 55 chairs are being recruited to help ‘reach timely, fair and balanced decisions’ in FtP referrals.

Of these, it is planned that 60 will be a registered nurse, nursing associate or midwife, and 80 will be ‘lay’ members who are not on the NMC register.

The NMC told Nursing in Practice that 90 people will replace existing members and chairs who have reached the end of their terms, and a further 50 will be additional hires to help support the delivery of ‘timely FtP outcomes’.

FtP panels consist of three members, including at least one nurse, nursing associate, or midwife, and one lay person, to determine whether a professional is fit to practise and if any restriction on their practice is necessary.

The recruitment call comes after an announcement by the nursing regulator of a plan to make ‘the biggest investment’ in FtP reviews in a decade, committing £30 million over three years.

This followed an NMC Council meeting in March that discussed how the regulator had seen an average of 493 referrals per month since April 2023, compared to 417 in the same period the prior year, with 596 new concerns raised in February 2024. At the end of December 2023, the FtP caseload stood at 5,711.

Reflecting on the need for more diversity in FtP boards, Queen’s Nurse and race equality consultant, Michelle Cox, commented: ‘With disproportionate referral rates of black and other ethnic minority nurses to the NMC, it is only right and proper that the panels reflect this diversity to ensure fairness.

‘The business case for board diversity has been well established for many decades, not only is it best practice it’s essential for good governance and meeting its ambitions to become an inclusive anti-racist organisation.

‘I personally know it will give confidence to many nurses’ unfortunate to have to go through this process as they will hopefully have a chance of being listened to and understood by a board with the requisite skills, knowledge and understanding of institutional racism and how it plays out in the workplace culminating in record number of NMC referrals.

‘This is creating significant backlogs impacting on the nurse’s psychological wellbeing and in some cases their ability to work.’

Asked whether the new recruits would help resolve the NMC backlog, Cathryn Watters, founder and director of the campaign group NMC Watch, which has campaigned to improve the FtP process, said ‘Articles can be found going back as far as 2016 that have looked at the work NMC are doing to “clear the backlog”, investments being made in order to achieve this and yet year on year the backlog continues.

‘We at NMC Watch are not sure that numbers of panels will necessarily solve the problem.

‘Mediation and resolution before hearing should be focused on helping registrants remediate, learn, improve – a hearing should be the last resort.

‘We need confidence that the investigations are being done properly and that by the time a case comes in front of a panel, everything has been scrutinised and proper cogent evidence gathered to deal with the current risk.

‘The whole process needs an overhaul if the improvements are really going to happen and the NMC must take an honest look at itself and do things differently moving forward if case management is to be improved.’

Lesley Maslen, executive director of professional regulation at the NMC, has called the FtP process ‘fundamental’ to ensure people ‘receive safe, kind and effective care.’

She said: ‘Our independent fitness to practise panels are key to this, making fair and timely decisions about an individual’s practice.

‘We’re keen that panel members and chairs embody our values – of fairness, kindness, ambition and collaboration – and are reflective of the diversity of our professions and the people we serve.’

This recruitment drive comes after the Council announced last month that it would be reviewing FtP cases in an effort to tackle differences in the experiences and outcomes of referrals for minority ethnic nurses.

It also follows from a report in The Independent newspaper in September last year that described the NMC of having had a ‘culture of fear’ in which whistleblowers were ignored.

Jane Slatter and Surinder Birdi, current and incoming independent appointments board chairs, said in a statement this week: We are committed to appointing panel members who reflect the diversity of our professions and the communities we serve.

‘Our selection processes are designed to be accessible, fair, transparent, merit-based, and free from bias and unlawful discrimination, ensuring that every voice is heard and valued.’

Applications are open until 17 July; and for more information visit the NMC panel member recruitment hub.


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