The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) has accused The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of "serious problems" which, it alleges, prevent it from carrying out its duties.

CHRE was asked to look into the conduct of the NMC after concerns were raised about how it ensures NHS staff are fit to practice.  The interim report found that poor management has contributed to a backlog of misconduct cases. In turn, delays in hearing misconduct cases could be putting lives at risk, the regulator claimed.

Currently there are more than 4,000 open misconduct cases, with some taking more than a year to be heard. The NMC has said it would take a couple of years to get on top of the backlog and ensure all cases are closed within the 15-month time limit.

Harry Cayton, chief executive of CHRE, said: "The Nursing and Midwifery Council needs to have a clear and consistent focus on its regulatory purpose. There are serious problems but we acknowledge the effort the Council, executive team and staff are putting into managing this transition."

The NMC said it was working hard to address the problems. Interim chair professor Judith Ellis said: "We accept the report's findings in its entirety and we are already working hard to address the recommendations."

The full CHRE report will be published in the summer.

Story posted by Robert Mair on 11/04/2012