The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has begun introducing a new approach to resolving complaints about nurses and midwives.
Under the new arrangements, where nurses and midwives can show that, despite something going wrong, they have learnt from what happened and are safe to continue working, the NMC may not seek to restrict their practice. To develop a culture of openness and honesty the NMC will provide tailored advice and support to employers, nurses and midwives to enable professionals to learn from their mistakes.
As part of the new process, the regulator will also be providing improved support and information to patients and the public making complaints. This includes providing them with a dedicated point of contact as part of a new public support service designed to ensure people are treated with the compassion and respect they deserve.
Matthew McClelland, Director of Fitness to Practise, said: “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.
“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.”
In a recent piece of research carried out by the regulator about its Fitness to Practise (FtP) processes over 9 out of 10 respondents, including members of the public, nurses and midwives and other health professionals, agreed that encouraging nurses and midwives to learn from mistakes would improve the process. Participants felt that it wasn’t always necessary to remove a nurse or midwife from the register even when there has been serious harm to a patient. This feeling was echoed in the consultation responses about the new approach.
Acknowledging the daily pressures and challenges facing the UK’s health and care workforce, the NMC will also take greater account of the context in which mistakes occur when making decisions. The research also showed that, of the members of public that took part, 82 per cent agreed that taking the context of an incident into consideration would improve the process.
Trusts, care homes and other employers will be encouraged to look at concerns before they reach the regulator, as they are best placed to understand what happened and resolve things quickly. To enable this the NMC will be providing more information and support to help employers to decide how and when escalate concerns. Feedback from the consultation noted the need to differentiate between what is deliberate or reckless behaviour and accidental behaviour.