Nurses and midwives set to face three-yearly checks
Nurses and midwives in the UK look set to face three-yearly checks from the end of 2015 under proposals being put forward.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council wants to see patients, colleagues and employers give feedback on performance.
Those deemed not up to scratch face being barred from working, under the plans drawn up by the NMC.
A similar system - albeit carried out every five years - was introduced last year for doctors.
Currently it is up to nurses to declare themselves fit to practise. This is known as renewal.
The proposals - known as revalidation - for the 670,000 nurses and midwives on the UK register have been under discussion for years.
But the NMC, which has been struggling with a backlog of disciplinary cases over recent years, has struggled to push ahead with the change.
Following the uproar over standards of care in the wake of the Stafford Hospital scandal the NMC committed itself to coming up with firm proposals.
These - set out in a board paper drawn up by the NMC's leadership team - will now be discussed at a meeting of the regulator's governing body next week.
If - as expected - the recommendation is agreed to next week, the NMC would then launch a consultation early next year.
The paper states that revalidation will promote "greater professionalism" and "improve the quality of care".
Three options will be put forward with the favoured one being three-yearly checks involving patient, colleague and employer feedback.
The NMC envisages the checks will form part of the appraisal process.
However, it admits that as the system beds down, dedicated roles may need to be created to oversee the revalidation process.
This has been done for the medical profession with the creation of responsible officers, although it could prove more costly for nurses and midwives as there are more of them.
Consideration may also have to be given to carrying out the checks every five years to reduce the workload, the board paper says.
But the NMC said it was determined to get going with the system by the end of 2015 and let it evolve as it was rolled out.
NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said: "Ensuring that the skills and conduct of nurses and midwives remain up to date throughout their careers is an important area of regulation.
"Any effective system of revalidation will increase public confidence that nurses and midwives remain capable of safe and effective practice."
Tom Sandford, of the Royal College of Nursing union, said: "Knowing that every nurse, no matter when they qualified, is fit to practise in a modern setting, and competent for the role they are performing is an important issue of patient safety as well as patient confidence."
But he warned it would require proper funding and close working between employers and the regulator for it to work well.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "I support the introduction of nurse revalidation, particularly in the wake of the Francis report, but recognise that any scheme must be tested to make sure it works for nurses and improves safety and quality of care for patients."