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NMC launches tool for employers aimed at reducing unnecessary referrals



The NMC yesterday launched a resource to help employers be ‘proportionate and fair’ when managing concerns about staff, and reduce unnecessary referrals to fitness to practise.

The nursing regulator said the tool will help tackle the disproportionate number of referrals of nurses and midwives from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background, as revealed in last year’s Ambitious for Change report.

The resource will support ‘employers to act first, with fairness and kindness’ when dealing with concerns, instead of immediately approaching the NMC, and to decide when it is not appropriate to make referrals.     

In 2019-20, the NMC found that 64% of its referrals did not require regulatory input. It is hoping to reduce this level of unnecessary referrals.

Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC chief executive, said: ‘We want to make sure we are focusing our work on referrals that are necessary to protect the public.’

The resource outlines best practice principles and questions for employers to consider when they are managing concerns about staff, as well as practical case scenarios to illustrate when to make a referral.

It outlines the three types of concerns you should raise with the NMC: where there is ‘a serious risk’ to service users, which ‘would be difficult to put right’; where concerns can’t be managed effectively by local actions; and concerns requiring the NMC to take action to protect public confidence.

Ms Sutcliffe continued: ‘Through working together we can help reduce unnecessary fitness to practise referrals and embed a learning culture that helps professionals feel confident to speak up, knowing they’ll be supported and treated fairly.’

Rosalind Hooper, RCN head of legal services, said: ‘We know that a referral to the NMC is hugely distressing for registrants and should not be used by employers unless it is the only way to protect the public.’

Suzanne Miller, lead on fitness to practise for the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘We hope that these guidelines will support maternity managers in their decisions on when issues should be managed by themselves or escalated to the NMC and in turn go towards reducing unnecessary fitness to practice referrals and ensure all midwives are treated fairly in any type of disciplinary process.’

This is part of the NMC’s fitness to practise approach, outlined in 2018, which focuses on helping professionals be honest when things go wrong, ‘rather than punishing people for genuine mistakes’.