On 05 September 2018, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (the “NMC”), the nursing and midwifery regulator for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland published its new Fitness to Practise Strategy (the “Strategy”). The NMC set out a new approach to resolving complaints about nurses and midwives in the Strategy titled “Ensuring public safety, enabling professionalism”. Central to this Strategy, is the furtherance of an open and transparent learning culture among the profession.
Commenting on the Strategy, Mr Matthew McClelland, Director of Fitness to Practise, said the following:
“For a long time in healthcare, there’s been a tendency to focus on blame and punishment when things go wrong. But we know that this can mean nurses and midwives are less likely to be open about what happened. Our new approach puts people at the heart of what we do and encourages a culture of openness and honesty. This is the best way for nurses, midwives and the wider health and care system to learn from mistakes and prevent them from happening again.”
The Strategy sets out 12 key principles which underpin the changes to be made. The NMC wants these principles to inform the expectations of those who are involved in the regulatory process, be that registrants, patients, members of the public, employers or decision-makers.
By way of example, under the new approach, if nurses and midwives can show that despite something going wrong, they have learnt from what happened and are safe to continue working, the NMC may not seek to restrict their practise (principle 7). However, if for example, a nurse or midwife deliberately covers something up when things go wrong, the NMC feels that this seriously undermines patient safety and damages public trust in the profession. The NMC is likely to take restrictive regulatory action in such cases (principle 8).
In September 2018, the NMC will update their fitness to practise policies to ensure that they align with the 12 principles in the new Strategy.
The full text of the Strategy can be accessed here
This culture of openness and candour is also being fostered in this jurisdiction with the introduction of the Patient Safety Bill 2018 (“the Bill’). The Bill aims to address the issue of patient safety by providing for the mandatory open disclosure of serious patient safety incidents to those who have been harmed by them. The Bill was brought to Cabinet on 5 July 2018 by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris and will now go before the Oireachtas Health Committee.
It remains unclear whether the Bill will place the onus of mandatory open disclosure on both health services providers and individual health practitioners.
A blog previously written by McDowell Purcell on this topic can be accessed here