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Nursing regulator criticised over delays in concluding cases

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The Nursing and Midwifery Council, the regulator for nurses and midwives, has been told that delays in concluding fitness to practice investigations are causing trauma to patients and nurses.

The NMC is currently consulting on its plans to ‘revalidate’ practitioner’s licenses to work every three years. However MPs have warned that the NMC must first show that it can clear their existing backlog of accusations against practitioners for poor and/or dangerous practice.

Concerns regarding nursing standards are growing following the Commons Health Select Committee discovering that there are more than 400 unresolved fitness to practice cases that have been ongoing for more than two years.

The NMC received further criticism by Mr Justice Leggett in a recent high court case against two nurses, Sarah Johnson and Lynette Maggs which had been ongoing for more than 10 years. On quashing the NMC's findings of misconduct, Mr Justice Leggett labelled the delays as ‘inexcusable’ and ‘disgraceful’ and went on to say that this case ‘could unfortunately serve as a case study for how a disciplinary case should not be conducted’. He concluded stating that ‘a decade after this misconceived and mismanaged case was brought against the registrants, their names are clear’.

MPs have advised that they want all fitness to practice cases concluding within a 12 month period, however the NMC has indicated that they would require a change in the law which would exempt them from the obligation to hold full disciplinary hearings in every case in order to meet this target.

Delays in the investigation and conclusion of fitness to practice matters causes uncertainty for the practitioners and undermines public confidence in the regulator.

By Francesca Richards, trainee solicitor in the professional discipline team

It is always in a practitioners best interests for cases to be concluded as soon as possible therefore if you have a ongoing case before the NMC and are concerned regarding delays in your case, our specialist lawyers can help, please call 01616 966 229 to find out more.