The Independent reported that leaked internal documents “laid bare concerns of ‘toxic’ issues” within the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) that, it said, means whistleblowers’ warnings are ignored.

According to the report, a NMC whistleblower said their concerns, flagged to the NMC, were met with “the same defensive management culture, prioritisation of its own reputation over its legal obligations, and poor treatment of whistleblowers that has recently been criticised as the reason for Lucy Letby not being prevented from practising earlier”.

An internal report from last year, kept secret by the NMC, details interviews with 41 staff members, as well as multiple exit interviews, between April 2021 and March 2022.

The conclusions, seen by The Independent, found:

  • A “culture of fear” within the NMC in which staff are scared “of making mistakes” and afraid to be honest when errors are made
  • Staff under pressure over the “huge” backlogs of investigations and given “unachievable” targets
  • One worker said they were “scared of raising [their] head above the parapet” as they did not think concerns would be acted on
  • Another said: “We’re drowning, we’re struggling, we’re telling people: we can’t cope with pressure”
  • Serious concerns raised over racism within the NMC, including the alleged bullying of Black women
  • Staff claiming sexism and misogyny, including pregnant women being treated unfairly

The report said a lot of people “wouldn’t feel confident to challenge inappropriate behaviour”, adding: “The phrase a lot of people used was that there was a ‘fear of consequences’.”

They added: “I and other colleagues have repeatedly escalated our concerns internally, but the NMC has failed to demonstrate the reflection and insight it expects of the nurses, midwives, and nursing associates on our register.”

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Responding to the article, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said: 

“First and foremost, I’m sorry there’s concern from anyone about our culture at the NMC. It’s essential that people feel able to speak up without fear and I’m grateful that these concerns have been raised with us and I take them extremely seriously. 

“Our priority is always the safety of people who use health and care services, and ensuring that is central to our fitness to practise work.  

“Of course, there is absolutely no place for sexual misconduct in health and care or wider society and we are equally clear that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated at the NMC.  

“We’ve taken steps to strengthen our ways of working in these areas, as well as in fitness to practise more broadly. However, we know we have much more to do and work is actively underway. We are committed to being an organisation that learns and improves. 

“We will carefully investigate all of the concerns raised in line with our established procedures. We will be transparent about the findings of that work including any further actions that we plan to take. 

“I want to reaffirm my personal commitment to developing a safe and inclusive working environment where all our colleagues are supported to thrive so we can effectively deliver on our primary purpose to protect the public. While we have made progress over the years I’m sorry it’s taking longer than we’d all want but I am resolutely focused on continuing to improve.” 

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