The president and chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) have announced their intention to resign following a damning performance review by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE).
The CHRE said the NMC is carrying out its statutory functions but fails to fulfill these to the standard of performance that the public has the right to expect of a regulator.
Its report identifies serious weaknesses in the NMC's governance and culture, in the conduct of its council, its ability to protect the interest of the public through the operation of fitness to practise processes and its ability to retain the confidence of key stakeholders.
However, the report also says the NMC has strengths in its standards and guidance and its registration processes, and acknowledges the progress which the NMC has made in improving its performance over time.
CHRE Chief Executive Harry Cayton said: "We have serious concerns about the inadequate operation of the NMC's fitness to practice processes, governance framework and lack of strategic leadership, the inconsistent availability and provision of information to council to ensure effective planning and decision making and its ability as an organisation to retain the confidence of key stakeholders."
Commenting on her decision to resign, Nancy Kirkland (pictured), NMC President, commented: "In their recommendations to the NMC, CHRE have stated that collectively and individually office holders and other council members should accept responsibility for the current difficulties and for their future resolution.
"Although I have only been president of the NMC for a short time (eight months), I share and take responsibility for the criticisms made by CHRE and I feel honour-bound to do so. I therefore intend to resign as president of the NMC in order to maintain public confidence in the NMC and the important work the organisation continues to do to safeguard the health and wellbeing of patients and the public.
"I look forward to the CHRE recommendations being implemented as a matter of urgency."
Sarah Thewlis, NMC Chief Executive, said: "Although CHRE's report identified some weaknesses in the NMC, it did not criticise individuals. However, as the chief executive and registrar who has led the NMC since 2002, I share responsibility on behalf of the executive management team."
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"The FTP staff are guilty of 'protecting the big boys'. There have been so many miscarriages of justice. So many good nurses have suffered at their hands for raising concerns. They are control freaks who are abusing their power every day with the assistance of 'lawyers' and 'expert witnesses'. They are not interested in protecting the public. They are only interested in protecting the big boys. They don't even follow their own
rules or laws in the country. They breach confidence and Human Rights every day. They think they are above the law. We should all get together and bring a case against then in the High Court in London" - John James Malone, London
"I can verify Ms Pearson's remarks [below] about the length of time the NMC take to conduct FTP hearings. It is of no comfort to her, but she may wish to know that a three year wait might be considered 'light'. I recall one case that took five years to be concluded, the outcome of which the nurse was 'cautioned' and that was to stay on permanent record for a further five years. This, despite the fact that other nurses were involved and had an unblemished work record since that incident. I suspect managers just wanted to make 'an example' of somebody and were using the NMC to do so. Ms Pearson also says she was the victim of dishonesty and can also confirm that it is not the first time the NMC has to deal with cases of that sort. In fairness, they do sometimes uncover it at hearings but that is often no compensation to nurses who have had to live for years with this knowlege. The current situation is ridiculous both for nurses and for the public seeking reassurance. If nurses are reported to the NMC, their registration should be suspended pending a hearing. If they are not prepared to do that or isssue a written caution, should drop it. How can the public or employers be reassured by a practising nurse who they may or may not be removed from the register years later?" – Dan M, Scotland
"Indeed they were right to resign. I have long been concerned at the lack of effective governance at the NMC, and when I raised these concerns the NMC refused to respond, demonstrating a total lack of openness" – D King, London
"I was a registered nurse until I was struck off in January 2008. I was lied about by carers, reported to the NMC and struck off, a process that took three years. I was allowed to practise as a nurse after being reported for misconduct and gross neglect of elderly patients during the three years. I could not afford to appeal, and had lost all confidence in the NMC by the time of my hearing. My life is now in tatters, professionally and personally – because the NMC failed to recognise lies! I would love to
hear from anyone else that this has happened to" – Rikki Pearson, Lancashire
"These people have got away lightly. In any other profession they would have been dismissed and not allowed to slink off without sanction. The president has resigned as president but decided she is going to remain on the council. The chief executive has given notice that she intends to resign but hasn't resigned. I am a registered nurse and I am ashamed of their conduct, which brings disgrace to the profession" – Andrew Crooke, Worcestershire
"They should have walked years ago. I have studied the NMC in some depth and my researches have turned up several cases of nurses who were completely innocent and yet 'convicted' by the NMC machine. It is a total disgrace to any concept of justice. Its ftp hearings system are a barely disguised rubber stamp, designed to serve up an annual quota of 'guilty' nurses, irrespective of ACTUAL fitness to practise" – Alan Cross, Dudley
"I echo Mr Hobson's comment [below]. The NMC was ruled as Thewlis' personal fiefdom and no oversight of the executive was exercised by the supine, cowardly 'governing' Council. The resulting internal incompetence was on a gobsmacking scale, resulting in delays and miscarriages of justice on virtually a daily basis. We all know that the public was being poorly served in the sense that dangerous nurses were being allowed to practise. What is less often realised is that perfectly innocent nurses have been publicly humiliated and hounded out of the profession. Sadly, this side of things concerns the politicians far less and the nurses concerned will never, it seems, achieve any redress. Let us be perfectly clear about this situation: Thewlis and co have been found 'unfit to practise' as managers and have been 'struck off'" – Chris N, Gloucestershire
"Yes, they were right to resign. This report was not before time. I believe that the NMC has failed in its duty to protect the public. They have not demonstrated any accountability in relation to the damming media reports surrounding the part that nurses play in the lack of dignity and respect shown to elderly people nor indeed to the rise of the superbugs in the hospitals. Certainly in this respect the NMC has done very little to protect the public" – Judith P Allen, Wales
"They most certainly were! The FtP experience, which my daughter is going through, is testament to the failures of that part of the NMC's function at least. She (and I) have no confidence in the NMC to represent the public interest" – Ian Hobson, North Yorkshire