UK nursing regulator’s new chief resigns after four days following racism row

The UK nursing regulator’s new interim chief executive has stepped down just four days into the job after facing widespread staff backlash over her links to a high-profile race discrimination case.

Multiple staff working at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) raised concerns to its directors over the appointment of interim CEO Dawn Broderick, who was head of HR at another trust when it was found to have discriminated against a Black employee.

The Independent can now reveal Ms Broderick resigned from the NMC on Monday evening.

The official NHS workforce plan for England will be almost 11,000 new nurses behind target by 2025 if current trends continue, according to a new report (PA Wire)
The official NHS workforce plan for England will be almost 11,000 new nurses behind target by 2025 if current trends continue, according to a new report (PA Wire)

It is the latest in a succession of controversies to hit the nursing regulator, following reports uncovered by The Independent last year. These include allegations from whistleblowers that racism within the NMC was allowing complaints against nurses to go unchecked.

The organisation must reckon with the findings of a major review of its culture by Nazir Afzal KC and Rise Associates, commissioned following this publication’s investigations. Mr Afzal was the author of a highly critical review of the London Fire Brigade last year.

Staff within the nursing regulator have come forward to The Independent, warning they do not have confidence the NMC’s board will take the issue of racism seriously.

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Ms Broderick’s appointment as CEO was announced on Thursday, following the news that previous chief Andrea Sutcliffe was stepping down due to ill health.

Meanwhile, on 6 June another NMC board member, Matthew McLelland, executive director of strategy and insight, announced he was standing down to “explore a career break.”

The short-lived new CEO was previously in charge of HR at King’s College Hospital London when it was embroiled in a high-profile employment tribunal.

The trust was ordered to pay £1m to IT manager Richard Hastings in 2018 after it was found he was unfairly dismissed and faced racial discrimination.

Mr Hastings was sacked over assault allegations against him, but a tribunal found that the trust’s investigation ignored his own allegations that he had been subject to racist abuse. It found the disciplinary process consistently painted Hastings as the “aggressor”.

The NMC originally defended the appointment of Ms Broderick as interim chief executive, claiming to have done its due diligence, despite concerns from staff across the organisation. It also defended the appointment of River Effra, a reputation management company, to deal with the fallout of the review after staff raised concerns over the company’s links to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

Former chief executive for the NMC Andrea Sutcliff (PA)
Former chief executive for the NMC Andrea Sutcliff (PA)

The resignation comes ahead of a major review into an alleged “culture of fear” within the NMC, expected next week, which was commissioned following The Independent’s reporting of a whistleblower’s concerns.

One senior member of staff at the NMC told The Independent prior to Ms Broderick’s exit: “I’m anxious about the organisation. The leadership is out of touch. I believe the NMC’s decision to appoint this person is appalling when the two main challenges to this organisation is the delay with its caseload and the response to the Rise report.”

They said that despite staff raising concerns the board has “lost sight of the moral values”.

Senior NHS officials have also raised concerns, The Independent understands, as have nurses who are regulated by the NMC.

Roger Kline, an NHS race discrimination expert who started calls for the NMC to rethink the appointment, said: “The decision by the NMC Council to appoint as chief executive someone whose track record on race discrimination was so open to challenge was a serious mistake.”

He added: “The NMC now needs a new leadership that is truly capable of changing the culture, challenging bullying and racism, recognising its failings and gaining the confidence of staff and registrants that it can create an NMC fit for purpose for patients.”

Sir David Warren, chair of the NMC’s Council, said: “Last week we announced the appointment of Dawn Brodrick CB as the interim chief executive and registrar. Dawn has subsequently decided that she will not be taking up the role.

“We will update on our arrangements for an interim chief executive and registrar, later this week.”

This story was updated at 11.35 with a response from the NMC