The NMC, the nursing and midwifery regulator for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has published its Fitness to Practise Annual Report (2017 – 2018) (the “Annual FtPC Report”). In its Annual FtPC Report, the NMC identified a number of changes which had been made during 2017 – 2018 to improve its effectiveness and efficiency in protecting the public. Aimed at delivering financial savings and to make the process fairer and more proportionate, these changes will be of interest to regulators in this jurisdiction. In order to effect these changes, legislative amendments to the NMC’s fitness to practise legislation had to be made.
We have listed below a summary of the changes and benefits, as provided for in the NMC’s Annual FtPC Report:
Summary of changes
Case Examiners were given new powers to give advice, issue warnings, and agree undertakings. Previously, Case Examiners only had the power to either close a case with no further action or to refer it for a hearing or meeting. The NMC’s power to review Case Examiner decisions was also extended to cover these new powers.
The NMC found that concluding these cases earlier meant there is less impact on all the people involved in cases, including patients and members of the public.
Between August 2017 and March 2018, the NMC have reduced its expenditure on hearings by using these new powers.
A single Fitness to Practise Committee was created. Previously there had been two separate Committees; the Conduct and Competence Committee and the Health Committee.
The NMC found that it was able to protect the public more easily when different types of allegations are heard together. The NMC found that it could now schedule cases more easily as they have more panel members available.
Hearings no longer have to be held in the country of the registered address of the nurse or midwife.
The NMC can now be more flexible in scheduling hearings, which can reduce the amount of travelling for witnesses, members of the public, and nurses and midwives.
In relation to the first point above (i.e. the new powers of Case Examiners), of the 2,112 investigations related to nurses which concluded in the year 2017-2018, Case Examiners referred 37% to a hearing, closed 57% with no further action, and closed a further 6% using their new powers to agree undertakings and to issue warnings and advice.
It is noteworthy that the new powers of Case Examiners were introduced in August 2017. It will therefore be interesting to see how much these powers are utilised by the NMC during 2018/2019 and whether this will lead to a further savings by NMC in relation to hearings. Regulators in this jurisdiction will be watching this area with interest. It appears that by equipping case officers with a suite of powers which incorporate some degree of discretion, the net consequence is improved capacity to deal with complaints. See full text of the NMC Fitness to Practise Annual Report (2017 – 2018).
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