At the end of October 2020 the regulator had 5,724 cases open.
Nurses, midwives and nursing associates facing Fitness to Practise (FtP) could be forced to wait until 2022 to have their case heard.
During the first half of the year, the regulator was called upon to implement emergency standards and development of an emergency register – allowing thousands of nurses to return to the frontline to assist in the UK pandemic response. This, however, caused the organisation to pause all non-essential activity leading to a significant backlog in the number of FtP cases it was dealing with.
At the end of October 2020 the regulator had 5,724 cases open with 2,713 at Screening, 2,158 at Investigations, 365 at Case Examiners and 488 at the Adjudication stage.
While NMC has promised that it is taking steps to reduce the caseload “as quickly as possible”, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it was concerned the backlog had doubled since last year.
Reducing the caseload.
Clare Strickland, Deputy Director of Professional Regulation at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, said: “Last year we identified an increase in our Fitness to Practise (FtP) caseload, which was being addressed. However, the coronavirus pandemic meant that we needed to prioritise certain cases and pause some of our core work and hearings.
“We recognise that any delays to our process have an emotional impact on those involved, including registrants and people and their families affected by concerns raised and I’m sorry for any distress this causes.
“A range of existing resources – our Public Support Service, Fitness to Practise Careline, and our emotional support helpline – are there to provide individual help and support, and we encourage people to use these if needed.
“There are a number of steps we are taking to reduce this caseload as quickly as possible, including investing in additional resources and working with employers to resolve cases locally. We are also improving our processes by ensuring our screening process and guidance are as efficient as possible, and better supporting those considering making a referral.
Doubled since last year.
Cathryn Watters, a member of NMCWatch, a group that supports nurses facing FtP proceedings, expressed concerns about the delay,
She said; “Nurses and midwives are needed in the workforce now more than ever, and many of these cases will mean that those being investigated cannot work”.
Mike Adams, England Director at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The backlog of cases at the Nursing and Midwifery Council has almost doubled since last year and we are concerned that registrants are waiting longer than usual for their cases to be concluded.
“We hope that the NMC will prioritise resolving their cases as quickly as possible, given the distress suffered by those caught up in the process and the loss to the workforce while the proceedings run.”