The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has outlined plans to overhaul its approach to dealing with complaints about nurses and midwives.
In a public consultation that runs until the end of May, the regulator is seeking views on its proposed new strategy 'Ensuring patient safety, enabling professionalism: a new strategic direction for fitness to practise'.
Openness and learning are key to patient safety and the NMC wants to encourage nurses and midwives to speak up at the earliest opportunity when things go wrong and see the fitness to practise process as an opportunity to learn and reflect.
In cases where there’s no dispute about what happened or what sanction should be applied, it plans to conclude cases without the need for a public hearing.
The NMC says it will always act immediately if patient safety is at risk, but the proposed approach recognises that employers are usually in the best position to resolve concerns immediately, and that the NMC should only take action if the concern has already been investigated by the employer.
Under the proposals, those affected by failings in care will be supported through the NMC’s new public support service and will only be called to give evidence at public hearings where absolutely necessary.
Jackie Smith, Chief Executive and Registrar of the NMC, said: ‘Where nurses and midwives speak up early and learn from their mistakes we want to see fewer hearings and cases resolved much more quickly.
‘We want to move away from a process which is often adversarial, cumbersome and distressing to one which supports a learning culture where nurses and midwives can be open about what happened.
‘Our proposals aren’t about excluding anyone, rather we want to reduce the impact on all those involved whilst putting patient safety at the heart of what we do.
‘This isn’t a done deal, we’re eager to hear not only from professionals and employers but importantly from members of the public about our proposed new approach.’
The consultation can be accessed at http://www.nmc.org.uk/ftp-consultation.