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QNI calls for independent inquiry into nursing regulator

QNI calls for independent inquiry into nursing regulator

The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) has written to the health and social care secretary to request ‘immediate action’ in response to a highly damning report on the culture of the UK’s nursing regulator.

QNI chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman and chair Professor John Unsworth have appealed to the government to commit to an ‘urgent independent review’ of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and ‘the performance of its regulatory functions’.

It comes after an independent culture review into the NMC today exposed 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.

The NMC has issued an apology and promised action to ‘deliver a culture change programme’ following a series of recommendations in the report.

In a letter to the new health secretary Wes Streeting, the QNI said the nursing profession had ‘lost confidence in the NMC and no longer believes it can safeguard the public’.

And it pointed to ‘significant issues’ around its culture, fitness to practise (FtP) procedures and its ‘exercise of regulatory functions’.

‘The QNI is therefore calling for an urgent independent review of the NMC and the performance of its regulatory functions,’ the letter said.

‘Such a review is essential to restore public confidence and the confidence of the profession.’

The QNI stressed this review should cover how the NMC manages FtP cases, ‘engages with the profession on standards and how standards are assured for individual entry to the register’.

It added that the organisation was concerned the NMC ‘will do little to address’ the issues highlighted by whistleblowers in the report.

And it accused the nursing regulator of being ‘more concerned about how the organisation is perceived than how it operates’.

The QNI is calling on all NMC registrants and nursing organisations to back its appeal for an inquiry.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) also responded to the NMC independent culture review, reassuring nurses that the union will provide support to ‘secure the necessary reforms and improvements’ to the regulator.

The RCN said the NMC was ‘failing in a number of its core duties’ and that it ‘must be fit to uphold standards and safeguard the public’.

RCN acting chief executive and general secretary Nicola Ranger said: ‘The recognition of the failings in this report is a start.

‘But the trust of nursing professionals and patients will only be re-established through immediate and ongoing action.

‘We are committed to ensuring that, in future, the NMC represents the modern reality and interests of nursing, midwifery and patients.’

She added: ‘The majority of nursing staff will never appear before the NMC but those who do deserve a process which is transparent and fair; free from racism and all forms of bias; and timely, recognising the impact on individuals.’

Today’s review outlined serious concerns with the NMC’s FtP processes, and 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.

A spokesperson for the NMC said the review provided ‘a wide-ranging and deep assessment of the NMC along with 36 recommendations, which we have committed to implementing’.

The nursing regulator has also commissioned two independent investigations by Ijeoma Omambala KC, into some of its FtP cases and the way it has handled whistleblowing concerns being raised. These are expected to be published later in the year.

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