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Complaints against nurses and midwives rise by 57 per cent

13 April 2011

The Nursing and Midwifery Council reports that it has experienced a record year on year increase in the number of complaints against nurses and midwives.

The NMC received 833 new referrals in January and February of this year compared to 530 for the same period in 2010 – an increase of 57 per cent.

The NMC states that the allegations are received from a wide range of sources including members of the public, employers, healthcare professionals and the police. It states that whilst more detailed work is needed to understand the precise reasons for the increase, the volume of new complaints referred from employers and particularly from members of the public is significant.

The NMC’s proactive approach to communication with employers and patients’ action groups, including better information about the NMC’s fitness to practise and complaints processes, may partly explain the growing willingness of these groups to complain to the NMC.

A recent overhaul of complaints handling processes – including setting up an expert team to screen out vexatious or inappropriate complaints at the earliest possible stage – has helped the NMC to make rapid progress on the more serious complaints about patient and public safety. The NMC also appointed a Head of External Liaison to act as a dedicated point of contact for directors of nursing to discuss complaints referrals.

NMC Chief Executive and Registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes said:

“It is encouraging that employers and members of the public are more confident about referring their complaints to us. We have worked hard to make our complaints handling processes more efficient and effective and we have set demanding customer focused targets for delivering our fitness to practise services.

“However, the fact that other healthcare regulators have also experienced similar dramatic increases in the volume of their complaints is a serious cause for concern and indicates the need for more detailed research into the underlying reasons for these trends.”