NMC shines spotlight on nursing and midwifery

Published on 03 August 2023

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has today published the first Spotlight on Nursing and Midwifery. This new report will be published every year, sharing insights from our work to support sector wide learning and improvement for the benefit of people who receive care.

Nursing and midwifery are already among the UK’s most trusted professions, having a positive impact on the nation’s health and wellbeing day in, day out. As the professional regulator, we want to share insights that can further improve learning and practice in nursing and midwifery, supporting professionals to uphold high standards.

This report signals our commitment to make better use of our regulatory data. The insights in the report come together to tell a powerful story about contemporary nursing and midwifery practice – one we will build on each year.  

International professionals experiencing discrimination that impacts patients

NMC data shows that growth of the UK nursing and midwifery workforce has been increasingly reliant on international recruitment over recent years. There are more than 164,000 internationally educated professionals on the register, and when they are well supported, they make vital and welcome contributions to people’s care.

However, that support is not always evident, and we have spoken to some new international recruits who shared worrying experiences including:

  • not feeling respected or treated the same as colleagues
  • racist and derogatory language
  • feeling misled during recruitment processes.

Discrimination exists in health and care, and there is evidence that it undermines the care people receive. By fostering more inclusive workplace cultures, employers and leaders can help ensure every nurse, midwife and nursing associate is able to thrive.

Inconsistent support for new recruits

‘Preceptorship' programmes are designed to support all new professionals into their workplaces. Our research has found that when employers deliver these programmes effectively, new staff find it extremely helpful.

However, we also found that programmes are being delivered haphazardly, with wide variation in the way they're organised and supervised by different employers. As a result, only a minority of new professionals in our research feel highly satisfied with their preceptorship experience, and there is a feeling that its potential is not always being met.

In collaboration with the four UK chief nursing officers, the NMC has produced principles of preceptorship to support professionals who design and oversee these support programmes. Consistent implementation of these principles will support more new staff to integrate into their teams, grow in confidence, and begin their journeys as knowledgeable and skilled practitioners providing safe, effective and kind care for people.

Recurring themes when maternity care goes wrong

Every day, midwives across the UK deliver the type of person-centred midwifery care that everyone preparing for the birth of a child has the right to receive. At the same time, recent high-profile inquiries into care in England are of grave concern to all involved in maternity services.

The NMC has analysed our fitness to practise data, which indicates some recurring themes when maternity care goes wrong. These include delays in escalating care in emergencies, together with poor communication between colleagues, and with women and families. Our data reflects some of the issues raised in recent inquiries.

It is a priority for to NMC to work with its partners to help address issues in maternity care. We have launched a new initiative called, ‘The best midwifery care happens in partnership’ – supporting midwives to work in partnership with women and families, ensuring the best possible experiences for them during pregnancy, birth and postnatally.

Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC Chief Executive and Registrar, said:

“There are more than 788,000 professionals on our register, whose knowledge and skill are vital to all our health and wellbeing. But on the rare occasions that care goes wrong, it’s often down to common factors getting in the way of the safe, effective and kind care people have a right to receive.

“We’re shining a light on those factors, including further evidence of racism and discrimination. We’ve spoken to some international recruits who have shared troubling stories about their formative months in UK practice. Supporting every professional to thrive is key to retention of staff, and to ensuring high-quality care for people.

“Meanwhile new starters across the professions aren’t always getting the standard of support they need to feel confident in their roles. And in maternity care, there are more signs that workplace cultures aren’t always supporting midwives to escalate concerns or communicate effectively with women and families.

“This is just the start of our journey toward better use of regulatory insight so we can keep on speaking up for a healthy and inclusive environment for our professions, for the benefit of everyone touched by nursing and midwifery care.”

Read the Spotlight on Nursing and Midwifery

More information about our data and insight work is available on our insight spotlight webpage.

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