The Professional Standards Authority’s (PSA) annual review of the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) found that the NMC “is taking too long to deal with fitness to practise cases and a significant backlog of cases has developed.”

This is the third year in a row that the NMC has not met the PSA’s targets on the timeliness of its fitness to practise investigations.

The PSA said it has taken action under its escalation policy to write to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care with its concerns regarding the NMC’s timeliness of its fitness to practise investigations.

Responding to the publication of the PSA review, Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, our Chief Executive and Registrar, said:

“While I’m pleased we’ve met 17 of the 18 standards of good regulation thanks to the hard work of everyone involved, I’m disappointed we haven’t been able to bring our fitness to practise caseload down as quickly as we planned. We know being involved in our fitness to practise processes can be distressing for people, and we’re sorry to everyone who’s been waiting for a decision.

“We also recognise the impact this can have on people from different backgrounds, because our Ambitious for Change research showed that people with certain diversity characteristics are disproportionately referred to us. We’ve established a dedicated task group to address these inequalities and contribute to our overall efforts to reduce our caseload in a fair, safe and proportional way.

“Reducing our caseload and improving our timeliness in handling cases remain our top priorities. We’re dedicating more resources to this, recruiting new colleagues and reviewing our procedures.  We’re concentrating particularly on screening, which is the first stage of the process.

“We’ll also keep working hard to deliver on the other 21 goals set out in our corporate plan. We remain fully focused on regulating well, supporting our professions and the public, and using our regulatory insight to influence the wider sector so safe, kind, effective nursing and midwifery care can be sustained for everyone.”

We recently reported on the increased number of Interim Order extension applications made by the NMC. In the article, we reported that the NMC has been criticised for the number of extension applications it has, and is, making.  NMC Watch also recently reported such a case in which High Court judge, Philip Mott KC commented:

“I have been sitting in this job long enough to see innumerable additional requests by the NMC to ask for extra time. It happens far too often in my view … there’s major interference with someone’s life”.

Cathryn Watters (RGN), Founder NMC Watch, said:

“Nurses or midwives are impotent to challenge this as it is seen as a “normal” part of the process and can not be prevented due to the workload the NMC have. We see this as not acceptable.  Registrants are left in limbo whilst investigations are completed, often unable to work and have no ability to sustain their professional or personal standing whilst they wait for the NMC.

“We did a survey of our group that got a no case to answer outcome – 25% of them did not return to work and a further 25% did not return to the same level as they were before.

“We feel there needs to be more accountability when cases do not complete their investigation in the 18 months period of an Interim Order.”

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