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NMC culture review holds up ‘uncomfortable mirror’, says council chair

NMC culture review holds up ‘uncomfortable mirror’, says council chair

The nursing regulator’s council chair has apologised to staff and registrants for the ‘deeply disturbing’ findings uncovered in an independent culture review.

Speaking on BBC Woman’s Hour earlier today, the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC’s) Sir David Warren said the regulator ‘must eradicate’ the poor working conditions faced by its staff and ‘correct’ concerns around its fitness to practise (FtP) processes.

The report today revealed that the regulator is suffering from a ‘dangerously toxic culture’ – including experiences of racism, bullying and burnout – which is causing staff distress and impacting on key safeguarding decisions.

Led by former public prosecutor Nazir Afzal, with Rise Associates, the review called for an ‘urgent turnaround plan’ to stop what it also described as a ‘dysfunctional culture’ at the NMC.

Sir David said: ‘It holds up a mirror to us. It’s very uncomfortable. It’s deeply disturbing.’

He added that ‘not all’ of the report’s findings were ‘a complete surprise’ to the regulator – notably concerns raised in the report about the length of time it was taking to complete FtP processes.

The review suggested that action was being taken ‘against good nurses’ while ‘bad nurses get away with it’.

One example cited that complaints about serious sexual misconduct and alleged rape were made against a nurse in 2017 but that they were not struck off until 2024.

The review also highlighted concerns that criminal behaviour by registrants was excused because it was deemed to be a private matter.

And in a shocking finding, the review team uncovered that six nurses had taken their lives in the past year while under investigation by the NMC.

Speaking on the programme, Sir David stressed the importance of hearing first-hand how nurses and patients are being impacted by inappropriate action and inaction at the NMC.

‘I want to say sorry to our staff because nobody should be working in those conditions in that environment. And we must eradicate it,’ he said.

‘I want to say sorry, also to the registrants who are caught up in fitness to practice processes, which are far too protracted or many of which are far too protracted.

‘That also is something which we must work and are working to correct. And these actions are necessary if we are to continue to maintain public trust to what we do. And that is at the heart of our mission as a regulator.’

Whilst thanking Sir David for inviting the regulator into the NMC, the report’s author Mr Afzal wrote in the report that: ‘For well over a decade now, the regulator has been dogged by claims of bullying, racism, incompetence and a dysfunctional workplace culture that fails patients and families.

‘The repeated response from the NMC is a promise to learn lessons. Yet, given the frequency of reports and continual criticisms, questions have to be asked as to whether this commitment is genuine.’

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