An independent report found “shocking bullying, racism and incompetence” in the organisation where “good nurses find themselves investigated for years over minor issues, while some bad ones escape sanction”.  The report highlighted that since April 2023, six people have died by suicide or suspected suicide while under, or having concluded, fitness to practise investigations by the NMC.

The Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) commissioned former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal and Rise Associates to independently look at its culture, after a whistleblower, external alleged it was failing to tackle serious sexual, physical and racial abuse.

Reporting on the report, the BBC noted that everything the whistleblower documented was corroborated and many of the more than 1,000 current and former NMC colleagues the review heard from – along with over 200 panel members who sit on fitness to practise hearings had had similar experiences in recent years.

The review found dysfunction across “virtually every level” of the NMC and the NMC said it was “profoundly sorry” and fully accepted the recommendations for urgent change.

PSA responds to publication of Independent Culture Review of the NMC

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has issued a statement in response to the report.  In its response, it said, amongst other things:

We note the Rise review included a recommendation for us to undertake more detailed annual reviews of the NMC’s performance against our Standards, conducting a more in-depth review of randomly selected cases at each stage of the NMC’s processes. We agree that enhanced monitoring will be required of the NMC in the coming months and years to ensure improvements are implemented and sustained. We will provide an update on how we will achieve this shortly, once we have considered the findings of the review in full. We will also be considering the evidence we look at as part of our performance reviews, and our process overall, to see if these can be further improved to help us identify the sorts of issues raised in the Rise review at an earlier stage.”

UK Fitness to Practise News

Sir David Warren, Chair of the Council, said:

“This is a profoundly distressing report to read. First and foremost, I express my condolences to the family and friends of anybody who has died by suicide while under fitness to practise investigation. Our safeguarding lead is urgently revisiting those cases and examining the impact of our processes on all those who are involved in them.

“I am extremely sorry to hear the testimony of NMC colleagues who have shared their distressing experiences of racism, discrimination or bullying. On behalf of the Council I give my absolute assurance that addressing this will be front and centre of change at the NMC.

“I also apologise to those nurses, midwives, nursing associates, employers and members of the public for whom we have taken far too long to reach fitness to practise decisions. Nazir Afzal’s recommendations, together with our existing improvement plan, will make the step change in experience they expect and deserve.

“The NMC commissioned Nazir Afzal and Rise Associates to do this review because we knew they would not hold back. We now have clear recommendations to take the organisation forward. I’m grateful to all our colleagues who have spoken up about these issues. I know that what matters to them now is action, not words.”

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, who stepped down as NMC Chief Executive and Registrar last week (4 July) due to ill health after five years in the role, said:

“Having received the draft of this important report three weeks after my decision to step down, I know there is powerful testimony from colleagues sharing their stories about racism, discrimination and bullying and their views of the NMC. It’s extremely important for the organisation to truly listen and respond. Clearly some colleagues have had experiences at the NMC that are not acceptable and should not be tolerated. I’m devastated this has happened on my watch and I apologise to everyone affected, our colleagues, professionals on our register and the public.

“The NMC needs a step change in its culture to ensure everyone feels supported to thrive and all benefit from the better experience some already have. Regulation of nursing and midwifery professionals also needs to be consistently effective and truly person-centred.

“I will be in hospital when the report is published and I’m sorry that my ill health means I’ve had to step away and will not be able to lead the necessary changes to make that difference. I hope the recommendations from the report which I commissioned with the Chair will enable the Council and leadership team to ensure the NMC is a more effective regulator and a great employer for all where our values of fairness, kindness, ambition and collaboration are thoroughly embedded and lived.”

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