The Department of Health (DH) has given its approval for the NMC to move forward with changes to its regulatory legislation.
The DH’s response to the regulator’s recent consultation gives the green light to the removal of midwifery supervision from the NMC's remit.
Changes will also remove the statutory requirement for the Midwifery Committee, the NMC confirmed.
‘Essential changes’ to the regulator’s fitness-to-practise legislation are also set to take place, giving it ‘new powers to resolve some cases more quickly, taking only the most serious cases to a full hearing’, the NMC added in a statement.
The proposed changes to midwifery legislation 'come after a number of critical incidents and independent reports confirmed the current arrangements for midwives are not appropriate for public protection', the regulator has stated.
Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar, said: ‘I have long maintained that our current legal framework is out of date and in need of significant reform and I am pleased that the government has recognised this.'
Ms Smith added that the changes would allow the NMC to become ‘a more efficient and effective regulator, better able to protect the public’.
Minister of state for health, Phillip Dunne, said: ‘By giving the NMC direct responsibility for regulating midwives, and making the NMC’s assessment of midwives’ and nurses’ fitness to practise more efficient, these changes will help to make midwifery and nursing as safe as it can be.’
The NMC confirmed that work has already begun to establish a new model of supervision outside the NMC’s legal framework, 'which will help to ensure that the things about supervision most valued by midwives continue in the future'.
The regulator said it would continue to work closely with the government and stakeholders on implementing the changes and to ensure ‘appropriate transitional arrangements’ are put in place.
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick responded to the announcement by saying: 'We recognise that the intention behind these changes is to ensure more streamlined, efficient and quicker processes around fitness to practise. We support a focus on regulation that provides assurance for the public and provides professionals with a fair and transparent process.
'Midwifery supervision will be removed from the remit of the NMC, and its regulatory aspects will go, but the RCM has worked hard to ensure that it continues in some form. All four UK countries recognise the importance of this and are keeping this role. What we need to see now are robust plans from each of the UK countries outlining the way forward for midwifery supervision. We are working closely with each of the UK governments on these plans, and we will be monitoring implementation to ensure that professional support, development and restitution remain a part of delivering safe maternity services.
'Some of the outcomes are a disappointment for the RCM and I am sure for our members. The loss of the NMC Midwifery Committee is something we campaigned against. Its loss is a blow given that 91% of midwives responding to the consultation were against removal. However, the NMC has given assurances that midwifery will continue to have a significant voice. I look to the government and the NMC to come through on their promises in this area. We will be working with them to determine what form this will take and to ensure that the midwifery voice continues to have a strong presence within the NMC.
'The fact that the NMC will be able to issue warnings against a registrant in a fitness-to-practise case even when there has been found to be no case to answer is a huge concern. What is important now is that when this happens, the registrant is supported by their employer to resolve the issue, and additional training, if needed, is provided.
'What we all want out of this is an effective and efficient regulator that protects the public. What is important now is that we all come together to make the new system operate effectively for the benefit of the public and for midwives. The RCM will be working hard to ensure that this happens,' Cathy said.
The government's response to the Changes to the Nursing and Midwifery Council governing legislation consultation can be found on the gov.uk website.