• Nursing and midwifery regulator launches helpline for members going through fitness to practise cases
  • NMC’s service will allow members to access emotional support 24 hours a day
  • Chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe says service will help in “truly humanising how we operate”

The nursing regulator has launched a support helpline for nurses and midwives who are going through its fitness to practise process in a bid by its new chief executive to “truly humanise how we operate”.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is introducing a service where members can access emotional support 24 hours a day from counsellors via phone or email.

The Careline service – initially launched as a 12-month pilot – is operated by an independent provider. The NMC said it offers advice on any aspect of the fitness to practise process, such as the investigation, public hearing and events leading up to a referral, as well as signposting members to other health and wellbeing services.

Alongside this, the NMC is also finalising guidance to help those on the register better understand how they can demonstrate they are fit to practise if a complaint is raised against them.

Last year, the nursing regulator launched a similar support line for members of the public who raise concerns when things go wrong with their care.

Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive of the NMC, said: “The Careline marks another important step forward in truly humanising how we operate and becoming the person-centred regulator that the NMC is determined to be.”

She added: “I hope the Careline, and our forthcoming remediation guidance, further encourages support and learning when things do go wrong in nursing and midwifery care. Together, let’s help ensure that all those involved in our processes are treated with kindness and respect.”

Junior health minister Nadine Dorries said: “Fitness to practise proceedings can be emotionally draining for the patients and families involved, but also the clinicians. Opening the doors for them to have round-the-clock access to specially-trained counsellors is an important step in safeguarding their wellbeing.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “Nurses, nursing associates and midwives can understandably find fitness-to-practise investigations stressful. The NMC’s Careline will be helpful in ensuring their emotional wellbeing is considered and supported during what can be a difficult and sometimes lengthy process and we welcome the NMC taking action to better support registrants.”

According to the regulator’s most recent annual fitness to practise report, there were 3,475 referrals to the NMC in England between 2018-19 and 506 interim orders were imposed to protect the public while investigations continued.

Last year, the regulator was criticised in a report from the Professionals Standards Authority, which found delays in the NMC investigating cases of poor care put the public at risk.