A new process for resolving complaints about midwives and nurses is being introduced by the NMC.
Under the new approach, where midwives and nurses 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.
The NMC will provide tailored advice and support to employers, midwives and nurses to enable professionals to learn from their mistakes and to develop a culture of openness and honesty.
They will also provide improved support and information to patients and the public making complaints, including a dedicated point of contact as part of a new public support service designed to ensure people are treated with compassion and respect.
Recent research by the NMC about its fitness to practise (FtP) processes revealed that more than 9 out of 10 respondents, including members of the public, midwives and nurses and other health professionals, agreed that encouraging midwives and nurses to learn from mistakes would improve the process.
Participants felt that it wasn’t always necessary to remove a midwife or nurse from the register even when there has been serious harm to a patient. This was echoed in the consultation responses about the new approach.
The NMC says it will also take greater account of the context in which mistakes occur when making decisions. The research showed that 82% of the members of public that took part agreed that taking the context of an incident into consideration would improve the process.
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 provide more information and support to help employers to decide how and when to escalate concerns. Consultation feedback noted the need to differentiate between deliberate or reckless behaviour and accidental behaviour.
NMC director of fitness to practise Matthew McClelland said that for a long time in healthcare, there’s been a tendency to focus on blame and punishment when things go wrong, but this can mean midwives and nurses 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 midwives, nurses and the wider health and care system to learn from mistakes and prevent them from happening again,’ Matthew added.