NURSES and midwives look set to face new competence checks involving feedback from patients and colleagues.

In a shake-up of the current three-yearly checks, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) wants to see involvement from the third parties before declaring staff fit to work.

The move has been welcomed by a Lancashire health chief and a nursing union.

Currently, nurses and midwives declare themselves fit and the NMC has no power to force a third party to provide information about them.

The recommendation will be debated ahead of a vote next week.

Azhar Ali, cabinet member for health and wellbeing at Lancashire County Council, said: “I think this is a very positive initiative. It’s something patients would like to see, because their feedback will be taken into account when the nurses are assessed.

“This is something that will benefit the NHS by keeping standards high, but it’s absolutely right that nurses and midwives views are taken on board to make sure it’s a system that can work for all staff.”

Steve Flanagan, Royal College of Nursing regional director for the North West, said: “Robert Francis [who looked into failings at Stafford Hospital] was very clear in his report that a system for revalidating nurses needs to be introduced, and we agree with him.

“Knowing that every nurse, no matter when they qualified, is fit to practice in a modern setting, and competent for the role they are performing is an important issue of patient safety as well as patient confidence.”

However, Mr Flanagan said the process of revalidation must be ‘fully resourced and properly funded’ so that registrants are supported to fulfil their responsibilities.

Jackie Smith, chief executive of the NMC, said a series of pilots would be carried out to determine how many nurses should be checked under the new system. With 675,000 nurses and midwives on the register - the largest in the world - it would be impossible to do them all at once.