Chapter 7: The Nursing and Midwifery Council
In 2002, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) replaced the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC) as the statutory regulator for nurses and midwives in the UK. As with its predecessor, the central functions of the NMC are described as being, “to establish standards of education, training, conduct and performance for nurses and midwives and to ensure the maintenance of those standards”.
The NMC’s main objective is to safeguard the health and well-being of persons using or needing the services of its registrants. As with the UKCC before it, the NMC is responsible for dealing with cases of alleged misconduct by nurses and midwives.
The Royal College of Nursing is a membership organisation and trade union which represents nurses and nursing. It has an in-house legal team and acts for its members when the NMC brings disciplinary proceedings against them.
The documents show that no referral was made to the UKCC, as it was then called. This chapter explains what the NMC did from the point at which it succeeded the UKCC in September 2000 up until its Preliminary Proceedings Committee (PPC) considered allegations against seven nurses. The chapter concludes by looking at a further complaint and communication with families.
How the Nursing and Midwifery Council became involved
As part of the second police investigation described in Chapter 5, Lesley Lack and Gillian Mackenzie, daughters of Gladys Richards, provided witness statements to the police which were critical of the care provided to Mrs Richards and also referred to the nursing staff. Mrs Lack gave her statement on 31 January 2000 (FAM003525, pp1–20). Mrs Mackenzie provided a witness statement to the police on 6 March 2000 in which she was critical of the actions of the nurse involved (BLC003731, pp1–27).
The documents show that Hampshire Constabulary did not make the UKCC aware of these criticisms at the time. On 18 September 2000, Detective Chief Inspector (Det Ch Insp) Raymond Burt wrote to the UKCC informing it that an investigation had begun into whether a woman had been unlawfully killed at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in 1998. Det Ch Insp Burt asked “whether there are any matters recorded which might be relevant to our investigation in terms of [the nurse’s] Professional competence” (HCO000941, p2).
The UKCC appears to have treated Det Ch Insp Burt’s enquiry as a request for information sharing rather than a complaint. The Panel has not seen evidence of any further contact between the UKCC and the police until May 2001 when the UKCC contacted Det Ch Insp Burt to let him know that, having been prompted by the Department of Health, it had reviewed its position in respect of the nurse and was seeking a meeting with the police (HCO000635, p151).
The UKCC met with Hampshire Constabulary on 15 May 2001. A confidential briefing was provided by the police about the investigation into the nurse but no formal disclosure was made (HCO000635, p143). Later that day, Liz McAnulty, Director of Professional Conduct at the UKCC, wrote to Mike Woodford, the Force Solicitor for Hampshire Constabulary, explaining that the UKCC had not interpreted Det Ch Insp Burt’s letter from September 2000 as being a complaint against the nurse. She asked whether Hampshire Constabulary “believe that [the nurse’s] conduct should be investigated by the UKCC, and whether your investigations so far have revealed any information about [the nurse’s] conduct which may warrant his interim suspension from the register” (HCO003123, p2).
The police disclosed material to the UKCC about those nurses who, on the advice of Professor Brian Livesley, a consultant physician at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, might have had a degree of criminal culpability in relation to the treatment of Mrs Richards. The material disclosed to the NMC was limited to what had already been disclosed to the individuals when interviewed by the police and comprised the witness statements prepared by Mrs Mackenzie and Mrs Lack as well as the hospital notes for Mrs Richards (HCO000635, p148; HCO000913).
Det Ch Insp Burt wrote to the UKCC on 18 May 2001 stating that Professor Livesley had expressed a view that the two relevant staff nurses might have a measure of criminal culpability in respect of the treatment of Mrs Richards and enquiring whether either had been the subject of complaint or investigation by the UKCC (HCO000861). In response, the UKCC sought clarification as to whether the police were making a complaint against the two relevant nurses, as “the UKCC can only investigate allegations against registrants in response to a complaint … the situation is that if you are making a complaint against the three nurses, we are obliged to investigate” (HCO005416, p3).
On 21 May, Hampshire Constabulary wrote to the UKCC stating that Det Ch Insp Burt’s letter to the UKCC in September 2000 was not considered to constitute a complaint against one of the nurses because the police had no authority to make a complaint against him (HCO000914).
On 29 May, the UKCC informed the police that it had decided to open a file for the cases of the three relevant nurses (HCO000911).