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Team appointed to lead review of NMC culture

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has announced who will lead an independent review into the regulator’s culture, after claims of racism, sexism and fear of speaking up were aired last year.

Solicitor Nazir Afzal and consultancy firm Rise Associates will carry out the culture review, which was called by the NMC’s leadership.

“A defensive culture within health and care services has caused great harm”

Nazir Afzal

According to a terms of reference document, the review will consider the specific concerns raised about the culture of the regulator which were first brought to light by news articles in the Independent last autumn.

These articles alleged NMC staff were encouraged to prioritise the speed of clearing the fitness-to-practise (FtP) caseload over handling the cases sensitively and thoroughly.

They also contained allegations of racial and sexual discrimination within the organisation and poor whistleblowing practices.

The NMC, shortly after, promised that the claims would be investigated “carefully”.

The review Mr Afzal and Rise Associates are carrying out will focus on the NMC’s internal culture. Other external investigations are taking place alongside it to look at the whistleblowing and FtP concerns.

According to the terms of reference, the culture review will investigate the behaviours and decisions of leaders at “all levels” and their impact on the people and culture of the organisation.

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It will aim to identify any barriers that exist within the NMC that stop staff from speaking up, and any general differences in experiences between staff according to their protected characteristics.

Mr Afzal, a former prosecutor within the Crown Prosecution Service, said he intended to get to the “heart of the NMC’s culture” and added that it was an “honour” to lead the review.

“Nursing and midwifery are the bedrock of healthcare but there have been too many care scandals in recent years where a defensive culture within health and care services has caused great harm, and that’s why it’s so important we have a high performing regulator to keep the public safe,” said Mr Afzal.

“Over the next four months, we intend to get to the heart of the NMC’s culture and the way this affects its work, and do everything we can to help ensure every member of staff enjoys dignity at work, feels empowered to speak out and is able to act on complaints and put the health, safety and wellbeing of the public first.”

The NMC said it expected the review would take at least four months and that the findings, as well as any action taken, would be published.

NMC chief executive and registrar Andrea Sutcliffe said the organisation was pleased to be working with Mr Afzal and Rise Associates.

She added: “We’re here to protect the public, and to do that, every colleague at the NMC needs to feel valued and be supported to deliver our purpose effectively.

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“It’s essential we foster an open, inclusive and high performing environment in which we all feel able to thrive.

“We need our colleagues to feel empowered to deliver all our regulatory work effectively, making fair decisions that keep the public safe.”

She welcomed what she called a “golden opportunity to get to the root of the issues” which had been highlighted in recent months.

Sir David Warren, NMC Council chair, added: “The council takes the concerns raised about our culture very seriously indeed and we welcome the appointment of Nazir Afzal and Rise Associates.

“I’m confident that their rigorous and independent investigation will help us to embed a culture where our values of fairness, kindness, ambition and collaboration are consistently reflected in the experience of our colleagues and everyone we work with.”

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