Barrister appointed to investigate allegations against NMC

A senior employment barrister has been appointed to investigate the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)’s handling of fitness-to-practise cases and treatment of whistleblowers.

The NMC today announced that it had appointed Ijeoma Omambala KC to perform two investigations into the nursing regulator in the coming months, with a third external investigation to follow about its culture.

“We’re committed to a rigorous, transparent and independent response to the concerns”

Andrea Sutcliffe

A series of recent articles in The Indepedent alleged that the NMC was failing in its handling of fitness-to-practise cases, including those involving nurses accussed of sexual abuse and racial discrimination.

The newspaper reported that staff at the NMC had raised concerns but were not being heard, and that there was a “culture of fear” at the organisation that meant others were too scared to speak up.

It also claimed there was sexism and racism internally within the NMC.

The NMC said Ms Omambala would hold two investigations: one about the fitness-to-practise cases highlighted as being mishandled, and another about the way it responded to whisteblowing related to these cases.

The third external investigation, the regulator said, would focus on “concerns raised about [its] culture”.

An internal NMC advisory group “of diverse colleagues” is being formed as part of this culture investigation to share experiences and suggestions with the regulator’s council.

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From there, an independent investigator will be appointed to carry out the investigation.

As part of today’s announcement, NMC chief executive and registrar Andrea Sutcliffe said she had “reflected deeply” on the claims which had emerged in the press.

“I’m more determined than ever for the NMC to fully embed a safe and inclusive working environment that supports all our colleagues to thrive, and delivers effectively on our primary purpose of protecting the public,” said Ms Sutcliffe.

“I’m sorry anyone has concerns about our culture, and the regulatory decisions we take. We’re committed to a rigorous, transparent and independent response to the concerns.”

The chief executive continued that she was “absolutely confident” that Ms Omambala was the right person to carry out two of the investigations, pointing to the barrister’s 30 years’ worth of legal experience.

“We’ll make sure she has access to external clinical professional expertise to support her work,” Ms Sutcliffe added.

She reiterated that there was “no place for discrimination in health and care”, adding that the NMC was “constantly working” to improve itself.

Andrea Sutcliffe

Ms Sutcliffe said that, as part of this, the NMC was in the process of reviewing guidance for decision makers in charge of sexual misconduct, domestic abuse and safeguarding cases.

This new guidance, she said, would be finished by February.

On inclusivity, Ms Sutcliffe said: “We’re responsible for a brilliant and diverse workforce who are motivated by our purpose.

“I’m so sorry to anyone who has personally suffered or observed racism or sexism, bullying or harassment at the NMC.

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“That’s not everyone’s experience as many colleagues have told me, but we must have a zero-tolerance approach for everyone’s benefit.”

The update today comes shortly after the Charity Commission announced it was carrying out a regulatory compliance investigation into the NMC, over the same issues raised.

Ms Sutcliffe further said there was “much more to do” to regain full trust in the organisation, and added: “I want to support our professionals to provide that care, and to lead an inclusive, fair and values-driven employer.

“We’re in contact with the Charity Commission which has opened a regulatory compliance case into these concerns, and we’ll fully engage with them on this.

“I promise we’ll listen, learn and most importantly act, responding to the concerns with care, rigour and a commitment to keeping people safe.”

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