Review reveals NMC’s handling of Morecambe Bay

By Julie Griffiths on 16 May 2018 NMC - Nursing and Midwifery Council PSA - Professional Standards Authority Midwives

A ‘lessons learned’ review into the NMC’s handling of concerns about midwives’ fitness to practise at the Furness General Hospital between 2004 and 2014 has been published today (16 May).

The review by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) for health and social care has concluded that, although the NMC's performance as a regulator is improving, it continues to make some mistakes and must develop a 'more respectful and open culture'.

While the NMC has made many changes and improvements since 2014, according to the review there are two significant areas requiring additional, urgent work: the NMC's approach to the value of evidence from and communication with patients; and its commitment in practice to transparency.

A series of recommendations to aid the NMC and other regulators to improve their standards is included in the review. 

In response to today's publication, NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said: ‘The NMC’s approach to the Morecambe Bay cases – in particular the way we communicated with the families – was unacceptable and I am truly sorry for this.

‘We take the findings of this review extremely seriously and we’re committed to improving the way we communicate with families, witnesses and all those involved in the fitness to practise process.

Jackie added that since 2014 the NMC has made significant changes to improve the way it works and as the report recognises, is now a very different organisation.

She said: ‘The changes we’ve made puts vulnerable witnesses and families affected by failings in care at the heart of our work. But we know that there is much more to do.’

Since 2014 the NMC has introduced a new public support service to support vulnerable witnesses and families through the fitness-to-practise process, and it has introduced a new employer link service to work more closely with employers to identify issues at an earlier stage. 

The NMC says it has ‘significantly’ improved its record keeping, and has consulted on proposals for a total overhaul of its approach to fitness to practise, which it hopes will encourage midwives and nurses to speak up at the earliest opportunity when things go wrong and see the fitness-to-practise process as an opportunity to learn and reflect.

According to the organisation it has achieved its best ever performance review from the PSA achieving 23 out of 24 standards of good regulation up from 15 out of 24 in 2013-14.

The review, commissioned by the secretary of state for health and social care, can be accessed here.