THE NMC AND THE PERSECUTION OF NURSES

il_170x135_390238589_2bhkAs a young nurse, I well remember a standard procedure of the old type of matron/nursing officer when becoming aware of a nurse making a relatively minor drug error; giving 100mcgs instead of 125mcgs, 25ml instead of 50ml, a different but very similar medication within the same class of drug, not giving a medication, giving without signing; the list is extensive, and concerned non-life threatening errors that were genuine mistakes, not purposeful acts. The senior nurse would mostly give the ‘offending’ nurse a verbal caution, telling them not to repeat the mistake. End of matter. Senior nurses realised that ‘to err is human’, and simple errors, honestly admitted to, were not a hanging matter. One old girl told me of several medication mistakes she had made in the distant past, and of some advice she had received from her venerable predecessor, which was to treat staff as if they are human, who, when under pressure, are prone to making mistakes, and, before being too judgemental, always consider if you were without sin yourself before picking up a stone to cast at them. This worked. It was a practical and humane way of treating people. Very good and caring nurses did not face career-ending punishments for minor infringements of best practice.

These memories came to mind when I examined some of the recent petty charges the NMC deals with, at great cost, I may say, with panel members receiving over £300 per hearing. It made me want to puke. How have we allowed a cabal of politically correct, holier-than-thou ‘absurdities’ to be the judge and jury of nursing? I use the term ‘absurdities’ pointedly, in that when we stop being human we truly become absurd. We become even more absurd when we judge a nurse on the accusations of an employer, without considering whether the accusations are malicious – a way of getting rid of a troublesome employee.

Cases often rely on the ‘evidence’ of other nurses, whose impartiality is not questioned. On the NMC’s ‘hearings and and outcomes’ website there is a ‘destruct button’ to press by anyone who wants to report a nurse, even anonomously! This is euphemistically called ‘make a referral’. ‘If you are concerned about whether a nurse or midwife is fit to practise, you can make a referral using one of the referral forms below: If you are a member of the public, please use the public referral form … If you are an employer of the nurse or midwife you wish to make a referral about, please use the employer form … The third parties referral form should be completed by professional organisations or individuals wishing to make a referral to us in their professional capacity … This may include … a police officer making a referral on behalf of the police. (Don’t get a caution for using cannabis!). Although the nurse or midwife needs to be aware of the identity of a complainant, we respect patient confidentiality. At hearings, identities are usually kept anonymous’. The ’employer form’ asks ‘What happened? Please describe what happened. There may not have been one major incident, but rather a series of small events over time. Provide as much information as you can, and if you require more space attach a separate piece of paper and reference it here’.

This is nothing more than giving an employer a retrospective right to dig up dirt (either real or fictitious) about someone who is not bowing and curtseying low enough. One ‘small event’ involved some poor sod of a nurse being accused of the heineous crime of using an employer’s computer to make a complaint about the employer! Who said that farce is a dying British art? What a power of Damocles it is to tell a nurse their ‘small events’ are being recorded!

One recent case I revued charged a nurse with a whole catalogue of alleged offences, (apparently) committed over a three year period (why was it take three years to make a complaint), including (apparently) not adequately investigating concerns about a patient (apparently) raised by colleagues. I could not see evidence of concrete proof of these allegations. I was of the strong impression that an employer might have coerced other nurses to compile a dossier on someone who was a member of the ‘Awkward Squad’.

Before the all-nurses-are-saintly tendency shout out that nurses would not deliberately falsely accuse another nurse, let me tell them to put the proverbial sock in it. Before I left the active ranks of nursing, it had become more obvious than ever that the petri dish of nursing was being cultured by a particularly back-stabbing form of nursing low life (which had always existed, but kept under check), intent on securing their job by being the poodle of so called ‘nurse managers’, a euphemism for someone who implements the cost-cutting, staff-shredding business plans of their masters.

These ‘winesses’ attend NMC hearings, often unattended by the accused nurse, to give testimony that is not subject to any court-level degree of cross examination. That is, the NMC operate in a quasi-legal way without the burden of proof required in a civil court, yet their ‘sentences’ (striking off orders) can have disasterous consequences to those found guilty.

Clearly, such ‘witnesses’ should be rigorously questioned on behalf of the defendant, who may not be in a union, or too intimidated to attend the hearing. This does not happen, and nurses are ‘lynched’ on nothing more than unproven accusations. Proof of guilt is not confirmed by an accuser having a colleague (which could be a friend) ‘corroborating’ the accusation.

I remember a case in which a care assistant came to me and confessed that she had been “made to lie” at a NMC hearing, by a manager who had falsely reported a nurse, who was having an affair with the husband of the manager’s best friend. Any spiteful person with a grudge can connive with others to concoct a case against an innocent nurse. Just press the NMC’s ‘destruct button’and get your friends to lie. Just press the NMC’s ‘destruct button’and get your staff to lie.

Dearhearts, if you imagine that nursing is a 25 year (mortgage paying) career, dream on. It has become nothing more than a conveyor belt, fed by the nurse lecturing industry, which delivers a new supply of cannon fodder when the previous fodder has been shot to pieces by continuously working short-staffed and being back-stabbed by ‘colleagues’ and ‘management’.

Like Houdini, the nurse industry hides these facts from the dewy eyed new student, who is told that there is a 90% plus chance of getting a first nursing job. In the UK, such statlies are based on government ‘projections’ of likely employment, which, in any case, are only for 6 month contracts. No one (outside of America, that is) is considering where the newly qualified nurse will be in five years time. Let me tell you. In a First World War analogy, those that make it to the long-term ranks, are continuously sent out of their trenches, to face a constant barrage of bombs and bullets. To get off with only being maimed is a blessing. The ‘officers’ of nursing who send them out are far behind these trenches, inhabitants of a cosy manager’s office or lecture room.

The holier-than-thou NMC ‘generals’ are anything but superior, of course. I have previously shown that ‘the NMC deploy 8 out of its 660 staff (annual salaries = £25 million) to check nursing certificates for a PRC stamp – ‘Detective Superintendent Simon Barraclough, who led the (Chua) investigation, … said, “I have no confidence in the qualifications he has provided via the Professional Regulation Commission” (which verifies the qualifications of nurses) … a source close to the Stepping Hill case said: “Vetting of nurses in the Philippines is very, very poor. A lot is done on the word of the Philippines regulatory authorities. They rely on stamped documents as proof of proper qualifications. This is why police can’t be certain that Chua’s qualifications are genuine.” Another said: “We can’t be certain that the Philippines’ Professional Regulation Commission has exercised due diligence with regard to the NHS. Once you have a PRC stamp, you are more or less guaranteed a job in the UK’ (nursebloginternational.wordpress.com/2015/06/17). The NMC may as well employ the office cleaner to check certificates.

A nurse slave trade based on lies and deception. The NMC just look for an authentic looking (often forged) stamp. I have given links to websites that promise ‘impossible to detect’ forgeries of nurses’ identification, university transcripts and IELTS certificates. The reponse? Silence. They have taken their £117 fee for ‘processing’ these documents (“This one looks OK, Ethel, put it in the pass box”), then send the applicant to almost inevitably pass a ‘practical test’ that is not of an Olympic High Jump standard, and is easily negotiated by anyone who has had even a modicum of nursing experience or coaching.

I have compared this to the fact that ‘the US government has established rigorous steps for assuring that foreign nurses entering the US workforce are qualified to do so. The 1996 immigration law requires that all foreign nurses undergo a screening program that verifies that their education is comparable to that of a nurse educated in the United States, their nursing licenses are valid and unencumbered, they have proficiency in written and spoken English, and they have passed a test of nursing knowledge, either the CGFNS Qualifying Examination or the US licensure examination. CGFNS was named in the 1996 immigration law to conduct the screening program, and through its VisaScreen Program, protects the US public by ensuring that the credentials and nursing knowledge of foreign nurses are comparable to those of nurses educated in the United States.(See: Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, §343, codified at §212 (a)(5)(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 USC §1182(a)(5)(c) (1996)’.

Dearhearts, most nurse lecturers I have known would not pass these exams!

This brings me to this point: A perusal of NMC hearings (July/Agust, 2015) reveals that of 69 striking off orders, 26 of them concerned nurses with decidedly African/Indian names, the vast majority of which will be recent arrivals from these places. The NMC state that they do not record in a judgement a nurse’s country of origin, as they consider this ‘racist’. This is hogwash. The UK government records all UK citizens’ country of origin/ethnicity in its Census forms. Are they being racist?

When I reviewed some charges overseas nurses, including those of not keeping a fluid ballance chart on a patient with problems of hydration, I was left flabbergasted by the sheer ineptitude that the defendant was accused of. As a first year student, in times long past, I would have had strips torn off me by a nursing sister for not doing such very elementary procedures.

My question is this. If the NMC issue a striking off notice to a foreign nurse, do they then undertake a proper investigation of that nurse’s certificates?, perhaps using a professional agency, as employed in many American States, which is easily affordable out of the NMC’s subscription receipts, as is their £25 million annual wage bill. I imagine they do not, under the smokescreen of not wanting to be ‘racist’, but, in reality, because they do not want the public to know that the net by which foreign nurses pass into the UK is made of elastic. That is, their masters, the government, do not want people to know this.

There is Something Rotten in the State of Nursing. The NMC needs to be removed and replaced by a democratically elected body (one not appointed by the Privy Council Establishment), which severely filters out complaints based on sheer hearsay; does not take the word of employers as gospel, and provides the accused with free legal representation, paid for out of nurse registration fees, rather than such fees paying for the London lifestyles of a vast army of superfluous staff.

The checking of overseas nurses’ qualifications needs to be done to an American standard, again to be paid for by registration fees.

Nursing unions should represent nurses, not the NMC Establishment, and vigorously oppose the role given to employers in the ‘revalidation’ of nurses, which is nothing more than a charter to pronounce on the life or death of a slave.

Nurses should combine with solicitors to make counter claims of malicious prosecution and defamation of character.

Nurses should form a ‘Victims of the NMC Support Group’ to challenge the validity of NMC sentences.

POWER TO NURSES!

lenin nightingale 2015

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NMC AND RCN, DOUBLE-ACT STOOGES OF GOVERNMENT

pulling_your_strings_sherlock_by_clockwork_fox-d4m9tl8THE NMC AND RCN DANCING TOGETHER

That great double-act of nursing, the NMC and the RCN, who strut the nursing stage as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumber, are nothing more than fee-sucking parasites, which, more worryingly, are selling the interets of nurses to employers; in return for being the sole arbiters of what is right and wrong; the judge, jury, and executioners of nurses.

They are puppets who want to dine with government, and allow their masters and its media machine to set the nursing agenda. Nurses need to be evaluated regularly, they agree, so let us give a big say in this ‘revalidation process’ to their employers; (quasi-privatised) hospital managers, and their nursing home equivalents, who work for debt-ridden private equity trusts, and are hell bent on cutting costs, so increasing their bonuses.

The Morcambe and Wise of UK nursing have readily followed the same government-led initiatives adopted by that other dictatorship, the GMC, whose own proposals for appraisal and revalidation state that ‘the balanced scorecard will be the key method of assessing performance and monitoring it over the year’ and that ‘practices that fail to achieve targets set within 1 year will rapidly be receiving remedial notices’; that is, there will be two stages to termination of contracts. In the same vein, nurses who do not lick their master’s boots will have a dossier compiled on them, which will be used as a basis for reporting them to the NMC.

From the mouth of the RCN: “Nurses risk falling foul of revalidation requirements unless their employers carry out regular and effective appraisals, senior nurses have warned’. A far cry from what should be said: “Stuff the NMC and its employer’s charter of revalidation”. “Stop them keeping a scorecard on nurses”.

Consider a hypothetical case. Nurse Mary Poppins is working in a nursing owned by a private equity trust. She has finished a drugs round, and has taken the drugs trolley into the treatment room. She opens a cupboard and commences to re-stock her trolley. As her back is turned, a patient with an history of theft, sneaks in the treatment room and steals several tablets (benzodiazapines), and swallows them. The nurse realises what has happened, and informs management. She is reported to the NMC, and faces a disciplinary hearing. The nursing home adds a number of other ‘issues’ surrounding this very experienced and well-regarded nurse, and also reports these to the NMC. These issues are subsequently deemed not worthy of follow up. The dossier begins to unravel.

To me, this would sound like a company wanting to get rid of a ‘stone in its shoe’, someone who does not chime merrily with company cut-to-the-bone policies, perhaps.

What of the main complaint?. Has every nurse who dispenses drugs always locked themselves in the treatment room when putting their trolley away? In the UK, the stolen tablets are a Class C, Schedule 4 Controlled Drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, but, as given by such as Ian Peate, Karen Wild, Muralitharan Nair, ‘Nursing Practice: Knowledge and Care’ (2014), there is no requirement to keep a benzodiazapine in a controlled drugs cupboard, or for them to be recorded in a drugs register – see their table 19.2).

The NMC would save time, and nurses’ and taxpayers’ money, if they stopped tap-dancing to the tune of employers and government.

Stop judging nurses as if they are Mary (perfect) Poppins.

Get real. Stop investigating (t)issues of lies.

When we stop being human, we become absurd.

Give nursing to nurses, not employers, and their double-act stooges.
lenin nightingale 2015

NMC – IS YOUR DATA SAFE?

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The NMC has responded to FOI requests to report that it spends £25 million a year on staff salaries, a tiny proportion of which covers the cost of a handful of relatively junior staff (out of its workforce of over 660), which have the vital job of checking the validity of overseas nurses’ certificates, i.e. does the stamp on the certificate look authentic; a somewhat anaemic approach when considering that the police have stated concern about the authenticity of ‘stamps’ from the Philippines (see previous articles).

This is a cause of great concern to many, and, it raises a general question – how competent are the NMC in other areas that it has responsibility for?

Take, for example, the fact that the NMC was fined £150,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in 2013 for breaching the Data Protection Act: Three DVDs containing confidential information about two children went missing during the process of a nurse’s misconduct hearing, with an ICO investigation discovering that the data wasn’t encrypted.”The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s underlying failure to ensure these discs were encrypted placed sensitive personal information at unnecessary risk,” said David Smith, deputy commissioner and director of data protection, criticising the council’s handling of the matter. “No policy appeared to exist on how the discs should be handled, and so no thought was given as to whether they should be encrypted before being couriered. Had that simple step been taken, the information would have remained secure and we would not have had to issue this penalty.” … “It would be nice to think that data breaches of this type are rare, but we’re seeing incidents of personal data being mishandled again and again,” said Smith, who continued: “I would urge organisations to take the time today to check their policy on how personal information is handled. Is the policy robust? And is it being followed in every case? “If the answer to any of those questions is no, then the organisation risks a data breach that damages public trust and a possible weighty monetary penalty,” he said. “While the Nursing and Midwifery Council breach only affected a relatively small number of individuals, it nevertheless resulted in confidential personal information being compromised”.

The ICO announcement of the fine was accompanied by a guide.

This data breach, which certainly damaged my trust in the NMC, followed on the steps of its reply to a FOI request in 2012: Does the NMC require nurses and midwives to always abide by the Data Protection Act? Would you, as nurses, who pay the salaries of NMC employees, and you, as a member of the public, expect a reply that was clear and precise in the affirmative? Oh, my dear and innocent ones, not so! The reply: ‘Although specifically this question doesn’t fall under the remit of an FOI request as we don’t hold any recorded information about this, I can tell you that it is the Information Commissioner responsibility to administer the workings and any failure to abide by the Data Protection Act, not the NMC. However this question is related to your second question about patient confidentiality, and therefore please see my response below. I refer you to the ‘The code: Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives’ which lists the standards and that nurses and midwives must adhere to and which includes information about patient confidentiality.

We don’t hold any recorded information about this!!!

Dear Nursing and Midwifery Council,

What proportion of your great army of staff are involved in ensuring strict adherence to data protection issues?

Are these staff thoroughly versed in the practices outlined in the ICO guide you received?

Have there been any other serious breeches of the Data Protection Act by the NMC since 2013?

Are your policies robust? Are they followed in every case?

If you become aware of a serious breach of the Data Protection Act by the NMC will you immediately report this to the ICO?

The answer to this, of course, is that it would be necessary to do so, for your code – Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives’ which lists the standards and that nurses and midwives must adhere to and which includes information about patient confidentiality – clearly points to openess and honesty in reporting Data Protection Act misdemeanours. Certainly, a nurse would invite a fitness to practice hearing if suspected of such misdemeanour, and what is sauce for the (nurse) goose is surely sauce for the (NMC) gander?

If you are ever guilty again of a serious breech of the the Data Protection Act, and are forced to pay a massive fine (£500,000 + ?), will you write to apologise to all nurses who pay your salaries out of their registration fee? Will you pay any fine by a contrite NMC hierarchy taking a 10% cut in salary until such a fine is paid?

Do you expect all nurses to report the NMC to the ICO if suspecting the NMC of breaching the Data Protection Act? 

Please reply to my questions, which I ask on behalf of a growing number of very concerned nurses, who trust and pray you are not as incompetent as they fear.

lenin nightingale 2015