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Charity Commission to investigate NMC governance concerns

The Charity Commission has launched an investigation into the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) amid “serious concerns” relating to the governance of the regulator.

The commission has opened a regulatory compliance case following accusations that the NMC has a poor internal culture and is failing in its fitness-to-practise (FtP) investigations.

“We have opened a regulatory compliance case to further assess this information”

Charity Commission

An internal document, leaked by a whistleblower to The Independent newspaper last month, revealed that staff who had been accused of sexual assault and racial abuse were allowed to keep working on wards.

According to The Independent, the leaked document also showed that the regulator housed a “culture of fear” in which its own employees could not raise concerns.

The whistleblower claimed that, inside the NMC, there was a “desperation” to decrease the FtP caseload – so much so that speed of case closure was prioritised over the proper outcomes being secured.

The Independent also reported in a later story that racism within the NMC is going unaddressed and is impacting how it dealt with complaints against nurses and midwives.

The Charity Commission announced last week that it would be launching a regulatory compliance case into the allegations.

A spokesperson for the commission said: “We have received information detailing a number of serious concerns relating to the governance of the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

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“We have opened a regulatory compliance case to further assess this information and to determine our next steps alongside other bodies.

“In line with our guidance, the charity has submitted a serious incident report to us on this matter.”

It also comes as, last week, Labour MP Sir Ben Bradshaw wrote to the Department of Health and Social Care, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, urging them to investigate serious allegations against the NMC.

According to The Independent, Sir Ben said the recent whistleblower allegations were similar to issues raised about the NMC in 2008, into which he commissioned a review.

The 2008 review, which was conducted by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (now the PSA), found that FtP processes by the NMC were “not always sufficiently robust to protect the interests of the public and hold the confidence of the profession”.

In addition, it found evidence of “inappropriate and aggressive language” by and between NMC council members, which it concluded was “threatening and bullying”.

In her most recent statement, NMC chief executive and registrar, Andrea Sutcliffe, said: “The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence’s wide-ranging 2008 report into our performance and culture acknowledged the progress we had made at that time and our commitments to further improve.

Andrea Sutcliffe

Andrea Sutcliffe

“While we have seen significant change within our organisation since then, I’m very sorry that there are concerns about our culture today.”

In response to The Independent’s first story, the NMC said it would be commissioning an independent investigation into the allegations and would appoint an expert to lead it.

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The appointment has not yet been announced.

Ms Sutcliffe said: “We know we have much more to do to create the safe and inclusive environment that supports each of our colleagues to thrive and fulfil our purpose of protecting the public.

“To help us get there, we’re appointing independent experts to conduct rigorous reviews of the concerns raised and advise on the further steps we need to take to embed the sustainable change we want to achieve.

“We’ll be transparent about the findings, recommendations and our action plan.”

Nursing Times understands that an NMC update on the situation will come out later this week.

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