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New fitness-to-practise approach launched by NMC

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The new system will allow nurses and midwives to show that they have learned from the incident in question and prove they are safe to continue working

New arrangements have been introduced to fitness-to-practise processes against nurses and midwives which allow them to show they’ve learned from their mistakes.

Introduced by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the new system will allow nurses and midwives to show that they have learned from the incident in question and prove they are safe to continue working – then the NMC may choose not to restrict their practice.

‘For a long time in healthcare, there’s been a tendency to focus on blame and punishment when things go wrong. But we know that this can mean nurses and midwives are less likely to be open about what happened,’ said Matthew McCelland, director of fitness-to-practise at the NMC.

‘Our new approach puts people at the heart of what we do and encourages a culture of openness and honesty. This is the best way for nurses, midwives and the wider health and care system to learn from mistakes and prevent them from happening again.’

The new approach is designed to encourage honesty within the profession, and in that regard the NMC will also give advice and support to employers, nurses and midwives.

Additionally, the NMC will support complainants by providing them with a dedicated point of contact to ensure they are treated with ‘compassion’ and ‘respect.’ This move reiterates the NMC’s efforts to put patients ‘at the heart’ of their organisation.

The Professional Standards Authority found that the council failed to take into account the concerns of families during the Morecambe Bay scandal – where 11 babies and 1 woman died between 2004 and 2013 following mistakes by midwives, who were allowed to continue to practise despite undergoing fitness-to-practise processes.

A recent report from the NMC found that in regards to fitness-to-practise processes, 9 out of 10 respondents (a mix of members of the public and health professionals) agreed that encouraging nurses and midwives to learn from mistakes would improve the procedure.

In the same report, respondents agreed that it wasn’t always necessary to remove the nurse or midwife from the register – even if serious harm was caused to patients by their actions – and 82% agreed that incidents must be put into context to acknowledge the daily pressures and unique challenges facing health professionals today.

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