The Department of Health has launched a consultation on the role of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in midwifery regulation.
The consultation paper proposes amendments to the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001 (NMO) to remove the additional tier of regulation for midwives and to abolish the statutory midwifery committee.
The proposals include removing the midwifery committee, the removal of the NMC's duty to make rules on midwifery practice, and the removal of local supervision of midwives.
The NMC has welcomed the consultation. Chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith, said: 'We are delighted the government has opened its consultation around changes to our legislation and would encourage anyone interested to respond to it. We have been pushing consistently for a more modern legal framework because, as an organisation which is there to protect the public, we know it will make the NMC more efficient and cost effective.'
In addition to removing midwifery supervision, there are several proposed changes relating to fitness to practise. If they were approved it would mean that some cases against nurses and midwives would conclude at an earlier stage while still taking the most serious cases through to a hearing. Hearings are often costly and lengthy and so by reducing the number of cases that go through to a hearing, the NMC says they can ensure they protect the public in the most 'cost-effective and efficient way'.
Minister for health Ben Gummer, said: 'I want the NHS to be the safest healthcare service in the world and this means making the midwifery and nursing professions as safe as they can be. We have learnt from the tragic failings at Morecambe Bay and through this consultation we will be modernising midwifery supervision which means that when things go wrong, lessons can be learnt at a local level. The consultation will also further improve the way the NMC deals with patient safety concerns by making fitness to practise processes more efficient.'
The consultation comes after several years of continued pressure by the NMC for legislative change as well as the Council's decision in January 2015 to seek the removal of midwifery supervision from the NMC's legislation.