The Nursing and Midwifery Council wants to tackle the “negative perceptions” currently held by some staff of their regulator by showing them that it is not just there to punish them when things go wrong.
“If we are to play our part in making sure safe, effective and kind care can be delivered, we must continue to improve”
“Strengthening the relationship with our professions” is one of five priorities that the NMC is proposing to use to shape its new strategy for 2020-25.
The NMC has today published a draft vision, in which it vows to become a “progressive professional regulator playing a leading role in driving better, safer care and a more just, learning culture for everyone”.
The five proposed “strategic themes” have been developed in response to views gathered by more than 2,500 registrants, members of the public and other stakeholders since April about what they think the NMC should be focussing on.
Through this work, the NMC said it was told by nurses, midwives and nursing associates that their view of the regulator was “highly coloured” by its ability to strike them off or sanction them.
“The NMC needs to strike a balance between ensuring rigour in our regulatory action while encouraging a just culture of fairness, openness and learning,” said the report.
“We have heard from students and registrants that their feelings about the NMC are highly coloured by our role in fitness to practise.
“Although this will only ever impact on very small numbers of professionals, the possibility of sanction hangs over them and influences their view of the NMC,” it said.
“There is a risk that this climate undermines openness and learning, which our new fitness to practise approach is intended to enhance. We can do more to address this perception of the NMC.”
As part of this, NMC would focus more on things that drive good practice, such as revalidation.
It would also work to “deepen” its understanding of the “distinctive experiences and contributions” of nurses, midwives and nursing associates from the beginning of their training and across their career.
“The NMC has a critical role in making sure these experiences are as good as they possibly can be”
While it is not in the regulator’s scope to represent registrants, the NMC said it could be more vocal about factors that made it hard for them to give good care.
In the draft vision, the NMC highlighted how workforce shortages were “increasingly threatening [registrants’] capacity to deliver high quality care”.
The rising complexity of care needs, medical and technological advances, changing models of care and new career pathways were also listed as key “strategic challenges” facing the NMC and those on its register.
Another of the five themes is around working in closer collaboration with other professional and system regulators to ensure nurses were not used as “scapegoats” for systematic problems.
New chief executive takes over at midwives’ union
This was becoming even more pressing as more staff moved into multidisciplinary teams, said the NMC.
A further theme identified by the NMC is around adopting a “dynamic approach to shaping practice” in which standards are continually reviewed and updated in line with new emerging evidence and in response to feedback from registrants.
The NMC is also proposing to improve its use and dissemination of the research, data and intelligence that it holds, recognising that it has “unique insight into our three professional roles, the context in which they work, and what can drive failures in care”.
This could see the NMC capturing and sharing information about working patterns and career pathways “to inform and improve workforce planning and provide insight to any systematic inequalities”.
Under the new strategy, the NMC could also produce regular reports on its fitness to practise data, “including our growing body of data on contextual factors”.
Better use of intelligence could also enable to the NMC to ”identify safety risks” for people using health and care services and enable timely, regulatory action.
Building a better relationship with members of the public and finding new opportunities to engage them in its work was also listed as a potential strategic theme for the NMC’s upcoming five-year plan.
Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive and registrar at the NMC, said: “Today marks an important milestone for the NMC, and everyone using, delivering and working in nursing and midwifery services across health and social care, who expect and strive for the highest standards of care.
“It must support midwives to provide safe and high quality care for women, babies and their families”
“If we are to play our part in making sure safe, effective and kind care can be delivered, we must continue to improve. That’s why we’re working on a bold plan for 2020 to 2025 that can shape the practice of nurses, midwives and nursing associates to provide the better, safer care we all want to see.”
The draft vision will now go to consultation and Ms Sutcliffe said she wanted as many people as possible to share their views.
Health minister Stephen Hammond said he “wholeheartedly” supported the NMC’s “inclusive” approach to develop its new strategy.
Fiona McQueen, chief nursing officer for Scotland, also encouraged everyone with an interesting in the regulation of nurses and midwives to submit their views.
“All of us will be cared for by a nurse or midwife at some point in our life, and the NMC has a critical role in making sure these experiences are as good as they possibly can be,” she added.
While Gill Walton, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, described the vision as “positive and welcome”.
She said it was “crucial” that the strategy recognised midwives as a distinct and separate profession from nurses.
“It must also support leadership in the profession and a wider vision for ongoing education and training for midwives,” she added.
“Ultimately, and most importantly, it must support midwives to provide safe and high quality care for women, babies and their families.”
The consultation will close on 16 October 2019. From October, the NMC will be developing its final strategy ready for council approval in March 2020 followed by implementation from April.