There’s an old saying, with many variations on the same theme: ‘everything comes to him who waits’, and my favourite variation is ‘all things come to him who waits – provided he knows what he’s waiting for’. I’m not absolutely sure that this next revelation is something I knew I was waiting for – but after years of waiting for the NMC to get its act together, there’s a small chink of light appearing.
The NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) is to review serious cases before internal investigations are conducted by the employer of the nurse(s) in question. According to Nursing Times –
Nurses and midwives involved in “very serious cases” that pose a risk to patients should be referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council prior to an internal investigation, the regulator has stated.
In updated guidance on referrals, the NMC has called on employers to make referrals as quickly as possible in order for it to consider issuing an interim suspension until the case has been fully investigated.
The regulator said it had “clarified its advice as a result of cases in which employers have misunderstood their responsibility to refer quickly if patient safety is at risk”.
It states: “The revised advice specifically encourages employers to refer a nurse or midwife at an early stage in very serious cases, even before they conduct their own internal investigation.”
NMC director of fitness to practise Jackie Smith said: “We would like to remind employers that if they believe the public’s health and wellbeing is at immediate and serious risk, they should contact us straight away.
“This will give us the opportunity to issue an interim suspension or restrict the person’s practice while the case is investigated,” she added.
The revised advice and information also notes that in less serious instances cases may be referred back from the NMC to the employer to be dealt with locally.
The guidance also includes more detailed information about the existing responsibilities of employers to check references, identity and competence.”
This news is of such importance, that I’ve just given you the full content of the Nursing Times article, and I trust that will be acceptable. It’s not so easy to find the updated guidance on the NMC website, but this is the nearest I’ve found – Urgent referrals and interim orders.
As an employer you have the power to suspend or dismiss a member of staff, but this will not prevent them from working elsewhere. Even suspensions by a local supervising authority midwifery officer (LSAMO), which would prevent a midwife from practising in that region, will not prevent a midwife from practising in other regions, or practising as a nurse if registered accordingly.
We are the only organisation with the powers to prevent nurses and midwives from practising if they present a risk to patient safety. In very serious cases it will therefore be appropriate to refer a nurse or midwife to us at an early stage, even before you conduct your own internal investigation. This allows for the possibility of issuing an interim suspension or restricting the practice of the nurse or midwife concerned until the case has been thoroughly investigated.
I am shocked to discover that this has only just been ‘clarified’ by the NMC, but it goes a long way to explain to me why I’ve had such a fight on my hands for the last 4 years now.
Perhaps I was naive and took it for granted that the onus was already there on the employer, in my case one of the big care home providers, and that the NMC would be contacted by any employer who has serious concerns about the standards of care being provided by a registered nurse or midwife. I didn’t know then how easy it was for the employer to allow several registered nurses to resign from their employment.
Perhaps I was equally naive to expect that the Local Authority would have a duty to follow through with all the sensible procedures, in order to protect other people who could be at risk if those same registered nurses who were allowed to resign were then ‘employed’ elsewhere. But when a care provider has several 25-year contracts with the same local authority, you begin to learn how to whistle in the wind!
Perhaps I was even more naive to expect that the local authority’s Safeguarding/Protection of Vulnerable Adults unit would be equally responsible for ….. safeguarding others.
The NMC is a Regulator. The GMC is a Regulator. The CQC is a Regulator.
What is being a regulator all about if it fails to regulate in the way that most of us, mere mortals that we be, would want and expect a regulator to regulate?