The NMC is confused about its primary purpose, distracted by its ambitions for expansion, and lacks a long-term financial strategy, the body charged with reviewing the nursing regulator has said.
The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) began a strategic review of the NMC in February, on the orders of the DH. It published its interim report last week, which described the regulator as operating in an 'unsatisfactory and dysfunctional' manner.
'At the heart of the NMC's inability to succeed lies confusion over its regulatory purpose, lack of clear, consistent strategic direction, unbalanced working relationships and inadequate systems,'the CHRE said.
The interim report also criticised the NMC's financial management, hinted at potential fee increases, and revealed that the regulator is currently spending its savings.
'(The NMC's) income is fixed, unless it increases registration fees, and it is now spending down reserves. Its business planning is weak, its management information is unreliable and its IT systems are at risk.'
The report praised NMC staff for their perseverance and dedication, but said all employees had been hampered by 'multiple organisational weaknesses'.
The failures have led to a backlog of fitness to practise hearings, with 4,000 open cases currently open. The previous chair of the organisation, Professor Tony Hazell, and former CEO Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes resigned in March and January respectively.
Professor Judith Ellis, acting chair of the NMC, said the report 'turned a spotlight on serious problems in our governance, financial strategy and management information'.
'We accept the report's findings in its entirety and we are already working hard to address the recommendations,' she added.
Following a council meeting in March, the NMC stated it would aim to clear the backlog of hearings, and focus on its core regulatory function.
Projects such as a review of the third part of the register; regulation of healthcare assistants; and of advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs) have been shelved.
RCN ANP forum chair Jenny Aston said: 'The NMC appears to be focusing on getting through fitness to practice hearings instead of looking at ways to stop them having to be carried out in the first place.'