NMC Boss Resigns Before Regulator is Roasted

NMC Chief Executive Jackie Smith has unexpectedly quit her post just before the Professional Standards Authority are due to publish a damming report concerning NMC performance.

News broke this morning that Jackie Smith would be leaving her role as the Chief Executive of the UK nursing and midwifery regulator. In a statement on the NMC website, which appeared somewhat muted and devoid of information, Jackie Smith stated “It’s been an honour to lead the NMC over the past six years and I am immensely proud of everything we have achieved. Now is the right time for someone else to take the organisation forward”

The statement gives no information as to why she has chosen to step down or why she has chosen to do so now. However, media outlets have highlighted the somewhat coincidental matter of the soon to be published report by the Professional Standards Authority. The report is expected to lambaste the NMC in relation to its handling of the Morecambe Bay midwifery scandal.

The events at the Cumbria hospital were described in a previous enquiry as a “lethal mix” of failures which led to the deaths of 11 babies and a mother over nine years.

In 2017 Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tasked the PSA with carrying out a “lessons learned” review of the regulators handling of the Morecambe Bay scandal. In an interview with the BBC the father of Joshua Titcombe, one of the babies who lost their lives at Furness hospital, said “Jackie has overseen a dire culture at the NMC that has caused considerable distress.”

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Many will question the timing of this resignation. By resigning, Jackie Smith will retain her considerable pension and benefits. Perhaps such practices are more palatable, or at least unsurprising, in the world of banking or finance, but a regulator of healthcare professionals, a charity and an organisation which holds others to moral and ethical standards should not be eyes deep in hypocrisy.

The public, which it sets out to protect and the professionals it is tasked with regulating expect more than this. Yet again, the NMC fail to deliver, but remain ultimately unaccountable for their actions. While the Professional Standards Authority may well issue a damming report, but what more? Our money is on an initial outrage, followed by a promise to improve.

The NMC are in the middle of a huge multi-million pound transformation programme, which is set to help them deliver their strategic goals.  Jackie Smith was an advocate of this programme and made firm commitments to leading the organisation in its delivery. Now that she is no longer willing to steer the ship, it is likely to run off course?