The number of nurses struck off the register for misconduct is running at record levels, the profession's regulatory body disclosed yesterday.

The number of nurses struck off the register for misconduct is running at record levels, the profession's regulatory body disclosed yesterday.

The UKCC, the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting, removed 96 nurses from the register in the year to the end of March 2000, equal to the record number struck off in the 1996-97 year.

The figures were issued as investigations continued into the case of the 47-year-old community nurse in Essex who has been linked with the deaths of terminally ill children. The nurse, who has not been named, was suspended last year pending the outcome of the police investigation.

Last year, 1,142 complaints were received by the UKCC, the highest recorded. Complaints about doctors and hospitals are also running at record levels as patients have become more aware of their rights.

Complaints against nurses are up from 1,077 in 1998, 1,032 in 1997 and 893 in 1996. They are still running well behind complaints about doctors to the GMC - 3,000 a year - and there are more than twice as many nurses as doctors.

Seventy-seven per cent of nurses who were questioned by the Professional Conduct Committee, the main disciplinary committee, were struck off. No action was taken in one case and the remaining 22 per cent were cautioned.

Sue Norman, the UKCC's chief executive, said: "We have made particular efforts to ensure people are aware of the UKCC and how they make a complaint against a practitioner. We have also worked with employers to help them identify those cases most likely to be considered misconduct."

She added: "The results have been more complaints. We are making strenuous efforts to speed up our processes and encourage those making complaints to bring forward evidence as quickly as possible."

* GP surgeries could offer extended evening and weekend opening as part of a £54.5m initiative announced yesterday to make primary health care more convenient.

All primary care groups are to be given money from the extra £2bn allocated to the NHS in the budget, and asked to decide which of three priorities to spend it on, a spokesman for the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Milburn, said yesterday. As well extended GP hours, they will be able to invest in specialist services at GP clinics or in the development of intermediate care for people leaving hospital.

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