The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s decision to caution former Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust chief nurse Jan Harry is being challenged in the High Court on the grounds it is “unduly lenient”.

The Professional Standards Authority, which oversees the work of the NMC and other health and care professionals, took the unusual step of lodging an appeal in the High Court this week.

The authority is asking the High Court to either substitute its own judgement on the case or to return it to a new NMC panel to be considered afresh.

Ms Harry was employed by Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust and its predecessor Mid Staffordshire General Hospitals Trust from 1998 to 2006.

The NMC panel found Ms Harry failed to ensure there were adequate nursing staff in the accident and emergency department, the emergency admission unit and another ward. She was also criticised for serious care failings in the unit between 2004 and 2006.

However, it decided against striking Ms Harry off the register and issued a caution instead.

The NMC subsequently asked the authority to review the panel’s decision.

It is only the 10th NMC decision the authority has appealed in the past 12 months. During 2012-13 NMC panels ruled in almost 1,400 cases.

Rosalyn Hayles, director of scrutiny and quality at the authority, said: “The public have a right to expect that senior managers will be held to account for their actions when these place patients at risk of harm, just as much as staff on the front line. We think the NMC panel’s decision to caution Ms Harry is too lenient and not in the public’s interest.”