Nurse regulator 'not good enough'

Nurses at work It is illegal to work as a nurse or midwife without being on the NMC register

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The regulator for nurses and midwives is still not doing enough to protect patients properly, MPs are warning.

The Health Select Committee said a huge backlog of cases was hampering the ability of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to safeguard standards.

The cross-party group of MPs also highlighted the regulator's poor record of having decisions overturned on appeal.

But the NMC said it was working hard to put things right.

The regulator, which is in charge of registering and regulating the 670,000 nurses and midwives in the UK, has been dogged by problems for some time.

Last year year an independent report by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence said the NMC was failing at "every level".

This report recognised progress was being made by the new management team, but that there was a "serious gap between current performance and acceptable standards".

It noted the NMC had a backlog of cases dating back more than two years that topped 570.

It said this needed to be cleared by June.

It also expressed disappointment that the rollout of revalidation - regular checks on nurses - was being delayed by 2015. It has already started for doctors.

Challenges ahead

And the MPs said much more needed to be done to tackle two of the major underlying causes of the problems - IT and staff turnover.

It also urged the regulator to be more ambitious in its plans for dealing with cases.

Its current proposal is that the average should take no longer than 18 months, but MPs said it should be half this.

Committee chairman Stephen Dorrell said: "The NMC's job is to protect patient safety by registering nurses and midwives and by enforcing acceptable standards of practice.

"The simple fact is that in recent years it has fallen down on that task."

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said: "We welcome the report, which recognises the genuine progress we are making, and challenges us to do better.

"We don't underestimate the challenges ahead."

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