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22.04.16

Government consult on proposals to separate nursing and midwifery supervision

Joint statutory regulation for midwives and nurses could be abolished under new proposals from the Department of Health, which are now open for consultation.

Professional regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) currently has an additional tier of regulation for midwives but not for nurses, consisting of a statutory midwifery body to advise the NMC, a duty for the NMC to make rules specific to midwifery practice, and a role for Local Supervising Authorities in discharging supervisory functions for midwifery.

The consultation is on a proposed order by health secretary Jeremy Hunt to remove these powers as well as making changes to the fitness to practice investigation process, including giving case examiners and the investigating committee power to issue a warning or advice to a registrant at the end of an investigation where there is no case to answer but the NMC still has concerns about their practice.

Following the investigation into infant death at Morecambe Bay Hospital, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman suggested that nursing and midwifery regulation should be separated to improve patient safety.

Jackie Smith, CEO and registrar at the NMC, whom NHE interviewed in 2014, said: “We are delighted that the Government has opened its consultation around changes to our legislation and would encourage anyone interested to respond to it. We have been pushing consistently for a more modern legal framework because, as an organisation which is there to protect the public, we know it will make the NMC more efficient and cost effective.”

The consultation says that the proposed abolition of specific midwifery rules from the NMC is designed to ensure that supervisors will be focused on supporting midwives instead of conducting regulatory investigations and sanctions in order to improve care.

Ben Gummer MP, parliamentary under secretary for quality at the Department of Health, said: “I want the NHS to be the safest healthcare service in the world and this means making the midwifery and nursing professions as safe as they can be. We have learnt from the tragic failings at Morecambe Bay and through this consultation we will be modernising midwifery supervision which means that when things go wrong, lessons can be learnt at a local level.”

The NMC has previously been criticised for failing to meet standards of good regulation.

The government have also proposed wider changes to medical services inspection, including the creation of a Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch.

The consultation is open until 17 June. To take part, click here.

(Image c. David Jones from the Press Association)

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