The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has published new guidance to support employers of nurses, midwives and nursing associates to take appropriate action when concerns are raised about an employee’s practice.
Managing Concerns: A Resource for Employers says employers should only seek regulatory involvement from the NMC when necessary and should first act to investigate, manage and resolve concerns locally.
The NMC has recently reviewed its fitness to practise policy and made improvements to help promote a just culture that’s free from blame and encourages health and social care professionals to be open and learn from mistakes.
In line with this approach, the guidance supports employers to avoid fear and blame when looking at concerns and to help nursing staff to speak up. It also sets out when it is not appropriate to make referrals to the NMC and outlines best practice principles for employers to consider when they are investigating concerns.
The NMC has said it hopes the guidance will also help employers to address findings from a report last year which found that nurses and midwives from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds were more likely to be referred to the regulator.
Separately, the RCN wrote to the NMC’s chief executive last month asking how the regulator will take the pressures on staff from the pandemic into account in current fitness to practise referrals.
RCN Head of Legal Services (Regulatory) Roz Hooper said: “Encouraging employers to deal with performance issues at a local level first can often mean they are dealt with more quickly and effectively.
“This new resource should help employers better understand the options available to them so that they are less likely to immediately make a referral to an NMC fitness to practise process when a concern is raised.
“We know that a referral to the NMC is hugely distressing for registrants and should not be used by employers unless it is the only way to protect the public.
“With the over-representation of BAME registrants within the fitness to practise process, it is vitally important that where there are concerns about performance those involved are properly supported through a just process that is applied fairly, whatever their background.
“If nurses, midwives and nursing associates, and their employers, can focus on learning from mistakes at an early stage, care will be provided even more safely.”