The nursing regulator is to produce a report reviewing its approach to fitness to practise (FtP) cases referred from failing maternity services.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said it wanted to understand how it had taken ‘context factors’ into account and whether there had been ‘a fair and proportionate approach’ to cases relating to major inquiries at maternity services.
In recent years, several high-profile reviews have revealed significant issues with the care of mothers and babies during and after birth in a number of trusts across the NHS.
During 2022, reviews into Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust – the Ockenden Review – and into East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust set out ‘appalling, tragic and long-standing failings’ in maternity services.
And senior midwife Donna Ockenden, leading the Shrewsbury review, stressed that safe staffing, escalation and accountability, workforce planning, and mandatory training were among 15 areas for ‘immediate and essential action’ needed to improve care and safety in maternity services across England.
In its annual FtP report published this week, the NMC recognised that maternity services had ‘been under intense pressure this year following significant failings reported in published investigations’.
It said it was ‘keen to support’ the response to these inquiries and that it had ‘conducted a review’ of FtP cases referred to the regulator in relation to the reviews at both Shrewsbury and East Kent, as well as from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, at which an investigation into its maternity services is ongoing.
‘The aim was to understand how we took context factors into account when handling these cases and making our decisions,’ said the NMC in its report.
‘We wanted to learn whether we have been taking a fair and proportionate approach to cases relating to major inquiries and also whether there is more we can do to support a more system-wide response to addressing failings in maternity services.’
The nursing regulator said this report was ‘being finalised in 2023/24’.
The change marked the first reduction in FtP caseloads since 2019 and the nursing regulator said it was ‘confident of continuing this downward trend’ going forwards.