A new confidential support service for nurses and midwives facing a complaint around their fitness to practise has been announced by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
The 12-month pilot launched on World Mental Health Day yesterday (10 October) offers advice on any aspect of the fitness to practise process – such as the investigation, public hearing or events leading up to the referral.
The support service, called the Careline, can signpost nurses and midwives to other appropriate health or wellbeing services that can help with their individual needs.
Careline is operated by an independent provider and will be free to access, anonymously if preferred, either over Freephone, LiveChat or email 24 hours a day.
Careline staff are experienced in handling sensitive topics, though NMC staff will remain the direct point of contact for all case-specific enquiries.
Meanwhile, new guidance is being designed by the NMC to help nurses and midwives demonstrate they are fit to practise if a complaint is made against them. This might include reflecting on what went wrong and undertaking extra training.
Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, chief executive and registrar at the NMC, said that the Careline is an ‘important step forward in truly humanising how we operate’.
She continued: ‘Less than one percent of around 700,000 professionals on our register are engaged in our fitness to practise procedures, but we know that it can have a profound effect on those that are.
‘The impact on someone’s physical and mental wellbeing as a result of being under such scrutiny mustn’t go unrecognised.’
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary at the RCN, said: ‘For any registrant, going through fitness to practise can be a stressful and traumatising experience and we are pleased to see the NMC develop a pilot which could offer extra assistance to those who get referred to the regulator.
‘By offering support with the emotional impact of being investigated, Careline, alongside the RCN’s own dedicated member legal advice and support services, can ensure that the wellbeing and mental health of all registrants is put front and centre.’
Suzanne Tyler, executive director of services to members at the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘Whilst only a small number of midwives find themselves in a fitness to practise procedure, for those involved it can be a very worrying process and have an impact on their mental and physical health.
‘The Careline will enhance the key support for midwives provided by the RCM when its members are going through this process.’
Last year, the NMC launched a public support service for members of the public who raise concerns about nurses and midwives.