9 Jul 2024

Damning report on Nursing and Midwifery Council will be ‘turning point’ says chair

News Correspondent

Sir David Warren is the Chair of the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Ayshah Tull: Some really serious allegations there. Absolutely damning. I wanted to draw your attention to the six suicides or suspected suicides. We know that each of these cases are very complex, but one mother has blamed the NMC for her daughter’s death. What do you say to the parents and families who think that you’re responsible?

Sir David Warren: Good evening Ayshah. Can I start by saying how profoundly sorry I am to the families of those nurses who died by suicide, either during or after a fitness to practice process. Every suicide is an avoidable personal tragedy and I feel profoundly shocked by Nazir Afzal’s report, and by the detailed review he has taken into fitness to practice processes and staff culture. In the case of the six nurses who died by suicide, we await the coroner’s inquests, in the majority of cases. And we wait to see what recommendations the coroner will make. We will, of course, take those forward, as urgently as possible. But the most important thing for us to do is to focus on the impact that our ‘fitness to practice’ processes, which are far too protracted, I accept the review in its entirety, have on the people caught up in them. The registrants, especially the most vulnerable, and the staff of the NMC.

Ayshah Tull: They are indeed very long. You have a backlog of around 6,000 cases. I want to draw your attention to another case, which Jane mentioned in her report as well. One nurse was accused of sexually assaulting a patient, raping a colleague by spiking their drink. The case was closed initially because the rape was done outside work. The sexual assault was done outside work. How comfortable are you with that decision process?

Sir David Warren: I’m not at all comfortable with the initial decision that was taken, which was clearly wrong, and it was reviewed and reopened by the assistant registrar. The case, as you say, took far too long to come to closure. But it is important to point out that the nurse in question was subject to an interim order for most of the period that took place before the case was concluded. I’m not defending for a second the fact that it took seven years to conclude this case with striking off…

Ayshah Tull: Was the person who made that initial case – were they reprimanded? Were they given a disciplinary for that decision-making, which you admit is flawed?

Sir David Warren: That decision was taken in 2017, which is some years before I became chair of the NMC. I’m afraid I can’t answer your specific question. But the important thing is that we must speed up our processes. And we have also amended our guidance to our teams to ensure that there is no distinction between the personal life and the professional life of our registrants. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity on that point, and there won’t be from now on.

Ayshah Tull: One of the big issues that was raised was racism. A staff member explained being brought into a meeting with the CEO – a dozen, black colleagues were brought in. They were asked to take a selfie, and then told a whole load of promises. Two years later, half of them had left. Do you really take inclusion and diversity seriously in that organisation?

Sir David Warren: We do. We take it with maximum seriousness.

Ayshah Tull: Really?

Sir David Warren: But I have to say how sorry I am. Not only to the registrants, as I’ve said, but to our staff that their lived experience reflects dysfunctionality. And this is graphically demonstrated in Nazir’s report, which should not be the case in our regulator. We accept all the recommendations that Nazir Afzal has given us. And they include a number of recommendations on equality, diversity and inclusion, which will involve diversifying the executive board…

Ayshah Tull: Just lastly and briefly, will you resign? You’ve been chair since 2021. Are you going to resign as a result of these damning conclusions that have been raised by this report?

Sir David Warren: I have a job to do, to take these recommendations forward. And I think stability is important as we do that. I shared a platform this morning on another media outlet with Nazir, who was kind enough to say that he had confidence in the counsel of the NMC and their commitment to taking forward his recommendations. I want to earn that trust and confidence by ensuring that this is a turning point for the organisation and that we reform fundamentally – and we will.