On 21 April, the Department of Health ('DH') launched a consultation on the proposed changes to the Nursing and Midwifery Council's midwifery regulation and fitness to practise processes. In addition to seeking to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the NMC's fitness to practise processes, it is intended that the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001 will be amended to remove the additional tier of regulation provided by Local Supervising Authorities who are required by statute to supervise midwives in their area and investigate cases of misconduct or lack of competence. The amendments are intended to achieve three main objectives:

The removal of statutory midwifery supervision provisions

The changes proposed reflect the desire to modernise and streamline the NMC's statutory functions by separating the roles and purpose of the supervision and regulation of midwives. It is proposed that the NMC will retain statutory responsibility for the regulation of the midwifery profession, whilst the supervisory role will be carried out at a local level, meeting the need for clinical supervision of midwives, or peer reviews for those not in clinical practice.

Abolition of the Statutory Midwifery Committee

The proposal to abolish the Midwifery Committee will, DH advocates, conform to the government's policy objective to streamline and rationalise regulatory legislation. The NMC is only required by legislation to have a statutory midwifery committee to advise on policy matters relating to midwifery, but there is no similar requirement to have a statutory committee to advise on policy matters affecting the nursing profession. No other healthcare professional regulators have a comparable statutory committee and the abolition of this statutory committee would reflect the Law Commission's recommendation in its review into the Regulation of Health and Social Care Professionals.

Bring improvements and efficiencies to fitness to practise processes

It is proposed that Case Examiners and the Investigating Committee should have the power to agree undertakings with a registrant or issue warnings or advice where this would lead to a more proportionate resolution of a case, obviating the need for a resource-intensive full hearing before a Practice Committee. In addition, a single Fitness to Practise Committee would replace the separate Conduct and Competence Committee and Health Committee currently in place, allowing concerns relating to both impairment of fitness to practise on health grounds and other grounds to be dealt with as part of the same adjudication process. Changes are also proposed to the requirement as to the location of Practice Committee hearings, interim order reviews and appeals and substantive order reviews.

The DH consultation closes on 17 June, and the full consultation can be seenhere.