Nurses and midwives are to undergo checks every three years under new plans drawn up in the wake of the Mid-Staffs scandal.
NHS watchdogs said the reforms, due to be announced tomorrow, will constitute the “biggest change in the history of regulation” of nurses, ensuring poor standards are no longer tolerated.
The rules mean nurses will have to provide evidence to show they are skilled and compassionate – including feedback from patients, bosses and fellow staff.
“The public would not expect someone to sit on a professional register for 30 or 40 years without some sorts of checks on their practice”
Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive
Until now, such workers have been able to declare themselves as fit for work without any information from third parties to back their claims.
The changes are one of the key recommendations from the public inquiry into Mid-Staffs, where hundreds of patients died amid appalling failings in care.
Under the new system, run by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) nurses will have to demonstrate that their professional skills are up to date, and they have undertaken regular training.
The watchdog’s council is expected to approve the new system tomorrow, meaning that more than 680,000 nurses and midwives will be expected to undergo the checks.
Nurses on a hospital ward Photo: Alamy
Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive, told The Daily Telegraph: “Nurses and midwives will have to demonstrate that they are fulfilling the values of our code of conduct – treating patients with kindness, respect and compassion.”
She said the inclusion of views from patients was an important part of the plans.
“Where it’s possible we will want to see patients’ feedback – it could be letters, or satisfaction surveys, as well as from staff and line managers,” she said.
Sir Robert Francis QC called for the system of “revalidation” two and a half years ago, in his public inquiry into the scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation trust.
Sir Robert Francis Photo: PA
But it has been dogged by delays, amid criticism of whether the watchdog was up to the job of taking it on.
Ms Smith said the overhaul was radical, but long overdue.
“I think this is the biggest change to the regulation of nurses and midwives in their history,” she said.
The public might be shocked that nurses and midwives are currently able to practice without such checks, she said.
Currently, staff only have to provide a self-assessment of their skills, with no verification by third parties.
“I think the public will say ‘it’s about time,'’ she said. “I think quite a lot of people would be surprised that this is not happening already.”
“The public would not expect someone to sit on a professional register for 30 or 40 years without some sorts of checks on their practice,” she said.
The NMC chief said the failings at Mid Staffs, and at maternity services run by Morecambe Bay Foundation trust , where midwives were accused of colluding to cover up failings behind baby deaths, were key triggers for the reforms.
“There have been a number of scandals - Mid Staffs and Morecambe Bay - which have focussed the spotlight on poor behaviour,” she said.
However she said the vast majority of nurses and midwives were aiming to do their best for patients, and would welcome the chance to demonstrate their skills.
“We see this as a tool to help improvement, not something to beat nurses or midwives over the head with,” she said.
Once the council has approved such changes, nurses and midwives will have to undergo the process every three years, starting in April, with the first tranche of almost 16,000 workers.
Source: Telegraph UK