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Nursing and midwifery regulator calls for supervision to be removed from its legislation

28 January 2015

Following an independent review of the regulation of midwives in the UK, the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) governing board today accepted the recommendation that statutory supervision should no longer be part of its legal framework. 

The wider role that supervision plays is highly valued by many midwives who will look to sector leaders to take stock of what is good in current practice and options to carry it forward. The NMC is pleased to welcome that the chief nursing officers have agreed to play a leadership role in this transition. 

Jackie Smith, NMC Chief Executive and Registrar, said:

“NMC Council is today calling for legislative change to give us direct control of regulatory decisions and allow others to take responsibility for the support and leadership of midwives.

“We will now work with the Department of Health in order to carry that recommendation forward.” 

Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC), said: 

“It has been over a year since the Ombudsman’s report highlighting conflict of interest in midwifery supervision and regulation that is potentially putting mothers and babies at risk. PASC is now following up on all the PHSO’s recommendations and it is past time to implement this report in full. We strongly urge the Government to take the steps necessary to enact these changes promptly.” 

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Julie Mellor, said: 

“This landmark decision hails as a result of families making complaints to the Ombudsman Service. We all owe them a debt of gratitude as their actions will improve the safety of mothers and babies in the future. 

“Our midwifery report, based on complaints we received about local midwifery investigations, found that the lives of mothers and babies could be put at risk because supervisors of midwives have two inherently conflicting roles. They investigate serious incidents on behalf of the regulator whilst often being responsible for the development and support of these same midwives, who may also be their peers. As a result safety may not always be at the heart of local investigations and lessons from serious incidents involving midwives may not be learnt. 

“Today’s decision will lead to a more modern and robust regulation of the midwifery profession with safety at the heart of what it does. 

“We now look to the next government to take forward the legislative changes needed at the earliest opportunity.”



Notes for editors

1.   The Nursing and Midwifery Council exists to protect the public. We do this by ensuring that only those who meet our requirements are allowed to practise as a nurse or midwife in the UK. We take action if concerns are raised about whether a nurse or midwife is fit to practise.

2.   There are currently 42,429 midwives in the UK.

3.   The independent review of midwifery regulation was carried out by The King’s Fund on behalf of the NMC Council. It was commissioned following a report in December 2013 raising concerns about supervision by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in England.

4.   The framework for midwifery regulation applies across the UK and stakeholders from the four countries have been involved in the review. It has been in place since 1902.

5.   The review does not call for an end to supervision but recommends it is removed from the NMC’s regulation.

6.   The review is not about the quality or integrity of the work done by midwives under the current arrangements; it is about the fitness from purpose of the framework in protecting the public.

7.   The NMC requires the support of government to change its legislation and it is unlikely that parliamentary time for change will be available before the UK general election.

8.   For media enquiries, please contact Ann Brown, NMC media team at or on 020 7681 5949