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Independent culture review will be a turning point for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

Source: Nursing Midwifery Council (NMC) published on this website Tuesday 9 July 2024 by Jill Powell

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has apologised and promised action after an independent review of its culture highlighted safeguarding concerns, and found that people working in the organisation have experienced racism, discrimination and bullying.

The NMC takes this extremely seriously and will deliver a culture change programme rooted in the review’s recommendations.

The NMC commissioned Nazir Afzal OBE and Rise Associates to carry out the review after concerns were raised about the organisation’s culture, including racism and fear of speaking up. Over 1,000 current and former NMC colleagues, plus more than 200 panel members who sit on fitness to practise hearings, shared their lived experiences as part of the review. The NMC accepts the report’s recommendations.

The NMC’s casework brings it into contact with members of the public, employers and professionals on the register, and the regulator has a responsibility to recognise if anyone has vulnerabilities it needs to consider. As highlighted in the report, since April 2023, six people have died by suicide or suspected suicide while under, or having concluded, fitness to practise investigation. We offer our sincere condolences to their relatives.

Sam Foster, Executive Nurse Director of Professional Practice and the NMC’s executive safeguarding lead, has led an expansion of resources for the safeguarding team over recent months. Sam is increasing knowledge and training, alongside strengthening the regulator’s operating procedures. This builds on work started several months ago to better understand how the NMC can improve its processes to reduce the impact and risk of harm to people – this work will be completed by September. The organisation is also establishing a safeguarding hub, which will provide advice to staff working in fitness to practise.

The report finds a link between the NMC’s regulatory performance and its culture. In particular, the ongoing challenges with the high fitness to practise caseload have put some of the NMC’s people under immense pressure. As well as following through on the report’s recommendations, the NMC will continue to deliver its £30m, 18-month plan to make a step change in fitness to practise. This plan was announced in March, with a clear goal to reach decisions in a more timely and considerate way.

The report finds there are at least two cultures at the NMC – colleagues might pass each other in a corridor with experiences that are worlds apart: one may be on an upward career trajectory, highly motivated and satisfied with their work. The other may be subject to bullying and harassment.

Racism, discrimination and bullying should never have had any place at the NMC. Where it has been raised in the past, the organisation hasn’t taken enough action to address it and hold people to account. The report’s recommendations will help to address this and move the NMC towards achieving racial equity for its people.

This is a turning point for the NMC. The organisation has already started to address some of the regulatory issues raised in the report. For example, in February, the regulator strengthened its guidance on concerns about sexual misconduct and other forms of abuse outside professional practice – making it absolutely clear that whether they occur within or outside a work setting, the regulator takes these concerns extremely seriously.