The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has published its annual report on whistleblowing disclosures.
From 01 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, the NMC received 34 whistleblowing disclosures. The NMC reported that regulatory action taken in 18 cases and in onward referral to alternative body and regulatory action taken in the remaining 16 cases.
The NMC sets standards for nurses, midwives and nursing associates to comply with. These standards ensure that patients are protected and are safe when being cared for by a nurse.
Through the NMC’s whistleblowing procedure nurses, midwives and nursing associates can become subject to a fitness to practise procedure and could face formal sanctions including being struck off. It is important therefore for nurses, midwives and nursing associates to understand whistleblowing and what this means for them.
The NMC’s website says this about whistleblowing:
“We recognise that nurses, midwives, students or other members of staff may identify risks or malpractice within the workplace that you wish to raise with us. This could be an issue that affects patients, the public, your colleagues or the organisation that you work for.
Whistleblowing is important as a way of shining a light on concerns. It helps a workplace to be open, transparent and accountable, to be able to learn from events, prevent future concerns and therefore protect the public.”
Legally there is a difference between raising concerns and whistleblowing. In law, a number of criteria must be met in order for “raising concerns” to be classified as whistleblowing:
- The person raising the concern to us is a ‘worker’ – someone who works or worked under a contract
- The person raising the concern must believe they are acting in the public interest.
- The person raising the concern must believe that it shows past, present or likely future wrongdoing.
- The person raising the concern must believe that the matter falls within, in this case, the NMC’s regulatory remit.
- The person raising the concern must believe that the information they disclose is true.
- In raising the concern, the individual must not themselves be committing an offence.
It is worth noting that whistleblowers have legal protections to stop them suffering any disadvantage from their employer because of what they have done.
A whistleblower can raise any number of concerns to the NMC including a nurse, midwife or nursing associate’s fitness to practise, them not acting in accordance with legislation any issue relating to education or their registration.
What will the NMC do?
The NMC will need to establish if the concern is valid. They will do this by considering the criteria mentioned above.
Should the whistleblowing be judged valid, the NMC normal fitness to practise and complaints procedure will apply. If however the concern does not relate to their regulatory remit, they pass the information on to the relevant regulatory body.
Are you subject to a whistleblowing concern?
The NMC should contact you to let you know that someone has raised a fitness to practise concern about you.
It is important that you seek as much information and clarity from the NMC about the concern raised. This is very important for any defence or explanation should this be necessary.
It is also important to seek expert legal advice at an early stage in the process. There is potentially a lot at stake and it is important therefore to make sure you are as well prepared as possible. Early legal intervention can sometimes lead to cases being settled quicker and without the need to go through the entire fitness to practise process that can be very stressful and costly.
I am a NMC Defence Barrister who has represented large number of medical professionals before their regulatory bodies in either first instance proceedings or appeals.
I can help with all matters relating to NMC Fitness to Practise referrals issues including:
- What to do if you have been referred to the NMC
- Advice on the NMC investigatory process
- Consensual Panel Determinations
- Interim Orders Hearings
- Advice, assistance and representation for hearings before the Conduct and Competence Committee
- Advice, assistance and representation for hearings before the Health Committee
- Appeals against the decisions of the NMC
- Police cautions
- DBS [Disclosure and Barring Service] issues
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