NMC May Shut Down Midwifery Programme Over Safety Concerns

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (“NMC”) has written to Canterbury Christ Church University (“the University”) confirming its provisional intention to withdraw approval for its midwifery programme at hospital trusts across the local area. As readers will be aware, the NMC is the statutory regulator for the Nursing and Midwifery profession and sets the standards of education and training, inclusive of approving training programmes for Nurses and Midwives in the UK and Nursing Associates in England.

The NMC’s intervention has arisen following concerning feedback received from existing students who reported a lack of supervision and being left alone to look after patients for entire shifts. Students also reported feeling unsupported when reporting concerns and felt they were not taken seriously when they did report.

In response to the NMC’s statement, the University has suspended the placement of a group of students at one of the hospital’s (“the Hospital”), which was rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ after an unannounced inspection from the CQC due to similar concerns being raised.

Further to this, the NHS Foundation Trust that runs the Hospital was also recently involved in a nationwide scandal following the publication of a report revealing failings at the Hospital had resulted in unnecessary deaths and injuries in babies and mothers.

The NMC has given the University until the end of March 2023 to turn the programme around, otherwise the course could be pulled and 130 student midwives would be a risk of not passing. The NHS Foundation Trust and the University have publicly stated that they remain committed to supporting their patients and students respectively, confirming that safety is at the forefront of any action taken.

It is clear from this case that the standards for care provision extend far beyond just the provider and location where this occurs and can impact partner organisations. This also emphasises the dire situation the care sector is facing, in the round, when it comes to staffing.

Recently, the CQC has been particularly critical of staff training and supervision, and the use of agency staff. At Ridouts, we have worked with many providers where the CQC has expressed serious concerns over the adequacy of training and supervision that staff received, including agency staff. These concerns typically pertain to lack of documentary evidence of training and supervisions and failure to provide specialty training and supervisions to agency staff.  These are then tied to safety concerns at the locations generally.

It seems now that these concerns may also stretch to the adequate supervision of students on professional courses. Providers will want to be particularly wary and ensure that adequate supervision is taking place in these instances because the CQC may deem failure to do so as a Breach of Regulation 18 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 (“the HSCA Regulations”). This can even stretch into a related allegation of failure to ensure that safe care and treatment is provided in line with Regulation 12 of the HSCA Regulations. These perceived breaches can then potentially be used as valid grounds for ratings downgrades and other regulatory action.

This is not to frighten any providers, but rather to ensure they are vigilant to the consequences of something as simple as leaving a trainee unsupervised for any amount of time. While safety and effectiveness of care provision is of course at the forefront of every provider’s mind, in the current sector climate, these small details can often get overlooked. This is particularly true where staffing is concerned due to the unprecedented shortage that the sector is experiencing.

Providers should still be encouraged to work with professional students, as this can help to alleviate the current staffing pressures being experienced. However, they should ensure that they are treated the same as any other employee when it comes to supervision and training and perhaps collaborate with the educational institution to ensure that both the education and regulatory requirements are fulfilled.

If you are a provider who is experiencing issues with the CQC or another regulator, Ridouts specialist teams of solicitors may be able to help. Please call on 020 7317 0340 or email and info@ridout-law.com.

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