This site is intended for health professionals only

NMC ‘still taking too long’ to conclude FtP cases, warns super-regulator

NMC ‘still taking too long’ to conclude FtP cases, warns super-regulator

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has once again failed to meet a standard set by the super-regulator around its timeliness of dealing with fitness to practise (FtP) cases.

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) recognised some positive changes the NMC has made to address its FtP challenges, but it said the nursing regulator was ‘still taking too long’ to conclude cases.

Within its annual performance review of the NMC, the PSA recognised that the FtP caseload had reduced by 14% in a year and stood at 5,577 at the end of March 2023.

Its analysis showed there had been a reduction in the total number of cases open for more than a year, however the number of those open for three years had increased from 517 in 2021/22 to 729 in 2022/23.

The performance review, which covers the period 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023, noted that ‘safely reducing the FtP caseload remains a clear focus for the NMC, and it is working to achieve this’.

But it added that, ‘although the caseload has reduced during 2022/23, there is more work to do to address the backlog’.

The NMC has now failed to meet Standard 15 – a timeline requirement set by the PSA for FtP cases – for the last four performance reviews ‘because of concerns about the length of time it takes to conclude FtP cases’.

The NMC’s caseload significantly increased in volume during the coronavirus pandemic, and some casework was paused amid the pressures caused by the outbreak.

And the nursing regulator said it had been ‘open about the challenges presented by our high caseload, and reducing it remains our top priority’.

It noted that the screening caseload was now at its lowest level since September 2020.

‘We’re making progress’ and ‘we’ll continue to monitor and build on this progress in the coming months’, it added.

It also highlighted its recently-launched fitness to practise (FtP) referrals helpline, which supports members of the public who are considering raising a concern.

Overall, the NMC met 17 of the 18 standards assessed by the PSA in the 2022/23 review, which cover education and training, registration, guidance and standards, general standards and FtP.

‘We’ve worked consistently over the past year to promote and uphold the high standards of nursing and midwifery practise the public has a right to expect, and we’re pleased that these achievements have been recognised,’ the NMC said.

The PSA noted, for instance, that the NMC has published further research into the impact of its regulatory processes on professionals with different diversity characteristics and ‘is taking action to address the disparities identified’.

It also said the NMC ‘engages proactively with inquiries into failings in patient care, reviews its findings and takes action to implement learning in its own work’.

Meanwhile, the PSA ‘continues to receive very positive feedback from the NMC’s stakeholders about its engagement with them and its openness to collaboration’, the super-regulator said.

The PSA also highlighted how the NMC published updated pre-registration nursing and midwifery education standards this year, designed to increase the flexibility of entry requirements, placement settings and learning methods.

Changes to the NMC’s English language standards have also been made this year, the PSA noted, including permitting employers to provide supplementary information in support of applications in some circumstances. ‘It has implemented measures to mitigate the risks arising from this change,’ the PSA added.

NMC chief executive and registrar Andrea Sutcliffe said she was ‘pleased’ the NMC has been able to meet 17 of the PSA’s standards.

‘It’s particularly encouraging to see such positive feedback from the partners we’ve worked with over the past year, for example when updating our English language requirements and pre-registration education standards,’ she said.

She continued: ‘I also welcome the PSA’s recognition of our work to address the fact that people from different backgrounds have different experiences of our regulatory processes, and of our proactive engagement with inquiries into failings in patient care.’

However, Ms Sutcliffe said it was ‘disappointing’ that the NMC again hasn’t been able to meet the standard on FtP timeliness.

‘As a result, people are waiting longer than they should for a decision, and I know this can be distressing for both members of the public raising concerns, and for the professionals those concerns are about,’ she said.

‘While it’s encouraging that our caseload has reduced by 14% over the last year, there’s still more work to do. That’s why this remains our top priority. We’re continuing to make improvements and focus resources in this area, so we can reach decisions on cases as quickly and safely as possible.’

See how our symptom tool can help you make better sense of patient presentations
Click here to search a symptom