• NMC chair Philip Graf apologises to families of Morecambe Bay scandal for “plainly wrong” comments
  • The regulator was heavily criticised for ignoring police concerns about midwives for more than two years
  • Apology and new statement follows a meeting between the NMC and the Professional Standards Authority

The chairman of the Nursing and Midwifery Council has made an embarrassing climbdown after claiming incorrectly on national TV that the regulator had not put patients’ lives at risk.

Newly appointed NMC chair Philip Graf has today apologised to families for his comments, made in an interview with Channel 4 News earlier this month, following the publication of a damning review by the Professional Standards Authority into the NMC’s handling of the Morecambe Bay scandal.

The report’s publication precipitated the resignation of the NMC’s chief executive Jackie Smith and Mr Graf told Channel 4 News: “Lives were not put at risk. The PSA report is clear that lives were not put at risk.”

After a complaint by families including James Titcombe, whose son Joshua died in 2008, Mr Graf has retracted those comments.

In a message to families he said: “I plainly got it wrong during the C4 interview and for that I apologise.”

HSJ understands Mr Graf’s change in position follows complaints by families and a meeting between the NMC and the PSA this week where the findings of the review made clear to the nursing regulator that there were risks to safety as a result of its inaction.

Crucial findings exposed by the PSA include the NMC ignoring more than 20 concerns raised with it by police for more than two years. Some of the midwives flagged by police were later involved in poor care at the trust, including one patient death.

Other members of the NMC Council have also echoed Mr Graf’s comments on social media.

Now the NMC has sent a statement to families that it is planning to release today to set the record straight after Mr Graf’s comments.

The statement, seen by HSJ, said: “We fully accept the conclusions of the PSA report. Due to our failures to act and the resulting delays in our investigations and hearings, some midwives continued to practise who may not have been safe to do so and mothers and babies may have been at risk of harm during this period. 

“During this time, further adverse events, including one death, occurred at Furness General Hospital under the care of midwives who were already under investigation by us. The PSA concluded that it does not know whether any of these could have been prevented.”

The NMC added it was taking the PSA report “extremely seriously” and was determined to learn from it.

Mr Titcombe told HSJ: “It’s disappointing that it took an intervention from the PSA for this corrective statement to be made.”

The NMC confirmed it was preparing a new statement that would be released shortly.