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Regulator planning £30m FtP investment to tackle backlog

Regulator planning £30m FtP investment to tackle backlog

The nursing regulator has published a draft plan to make ‘the biggest investment’ in fitness to practise (FtP) in a decade – which would involve committing £30m over the next three years.

The nursing regulator is requesting its governing council to approve the ‘substantially increased investment’ following an 18% increase in referrals.

It said it had seen an average of 493 referrals per month since April 2023, compared to 417 in the same period the prior year, and that 596 new concerns were raised in February 2024 alone. The caseload stood at 5,711 at the end of December 2023.

The NMC acknowledged its FtP backlog and that, as a result, people are waiting ‘longer than they should’ for cases to be resolved.

It identified seven key areas for improvement, for example raising awareness among employers and the public of when a referral to the NMC is appropriate, enabling it to focus on suitable cases.

The investment would also go towards expanding the NMC’s screening team and outsourcing, to free up internal legal capacity to prepare and present more cases at hearings or meetings.

The plan includes new approaches to allocating and risk assessing cases, with a focus on those with interim orders that restrict a professional’s practice, as well as increasing management capacity to support case progression.

Improving the quality and timeliness of decisions at the adjudication stage is also on the agenda, as is a review of the skills, experience, training and support that hearing coordinators need to manage hearings effectively, and an increase in panel capacity and number of hearings.

The NMC also said it would ensure resourcing and oversight were ‘appropriate to the number and cases we are progressing’. Finally, the organisation confirmed plans to introduce a new case management system in 2025.

Lesley Maslen, NMC executive director of professional regulation, said: ‘Thanks to the hard work of our colleagues, we’ve improved our fitness to practise processes over the last few years and increased the number of decisions we make.

‘But we’re still not resolving enough cases swiftly, and feedback from our colleagues tells us they’re feeling overwhelmed.’

She added: ‘We need a fitness to practise service that is truly person-centred, collaborative, and straightforward for everyone involved.

‘That’s why our new plan commits £30m to fitness to practise over the next three years, with a particular focus on investment and improvement over the next 18 months.

‘It will ensure we can continue making decisions that keep people safe, but in a more timely and considerate way that will be sustainable into the future.’

Ms Maslen added: ‘We are building on strong foundations. We have a new senior team in place, and better data from process reviews and modelling about the impact of our caseload.

‘That insight has enabled us to shape this plan, which will realise our determination to resolve cases as safely and swiftly as possible, for the benefit of the public and the professionals on our register.’

The full plan is subject to approval by the NMC’s governing council at its next public meeting in London on 27 March.

In September 2023, 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.

Last summer, the NMC said it had reduced its FtP caseload by 14% in a year, but was still short of its 5,000-caseload target.


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