Nursing and Midwifery Council head to step down

Jackie Smith
Image caption Jackie Smith said it was "the right time" for her to step down

The head of the Nursing and Midwifery Council is to step down, days before a review into its handling of a baby deaths scandal in Cumbria is published.

Chief executive Jackie Smith said she would leave the regulator in July.

A Professional Standards Authority (PSA) review into the NMC's handling of midwife cases at the Morecambe Bay NHS Trust is due out on Wednesday.

An earlier inquiry said a "lethal mix" of failures led to the deaths of 11 babies and a mother over nine years.

Last year Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tasked the PSA with carrying out a "lessons learned" review into how the NMC handled maternity failings at the trust.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Joshua Titcombe died nine days after being born at the Furness General Hospital maternity unit

It runs Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Lancaster Royal Infirmary and Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal, as well as smaller community hospitals in Morecambe and Ulverston.

The latest review followed a government-backed inquiry in 2015, sparked by the death of nine-day-old Joshua Titcombe from sepsis at Barrow's Furness General in 2008.

The inquiry found 20 major failures from 2004 to 2013 at Furness General Hospital.

A series of NMC misconduct hearings resulted in three midwives being struck off and the suspension of another.

But the NMC's handling of the cases - some of which were not heard for eight years - was heavily criticised by Joshua's father James Titcombe.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Midwives at Furness General were criticised over the deaths of babies and a mother

Responding to Ms Smith's resignation, he said: "Jackie has overseen a dire culture at the NMC that has caused considerable distress."

Ms Smith, who has been in post for six years, said: "It's been an honour to lead the NMC and I am immensely proud of everything we have achieved.

"Now is the right time for someone else to take the organisation forward.

"I want to pay tribute to the staff at the NMC who have worked so hard and achieved so much during my time here.

"I'd also like to thank the nurses and midwives on our register - it's been a privilege to work with them and witness the fantastic care they deliver day in day out."

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