If you are called as a witness at an NMC hearing, you will be questioned by the NMC legal representative and cross examined by the registrant or their legal representative, or vice versa. This will depend on who has called you as a witness. The panel will also ask you questions. If you are facing NMC hearings, don’t come alone – you are permitted to appoint legal council to assist you in the presentation of your case and the outcome for nurses and midwives improves significantly with qualified legal representation.
As a former senior nurse, NMC Defence Barristers’ Catherine Stock worked in senior management for many years and now advises care homes, hospitals, clinicians, nurses and midwives on legal matters concerning healthcare regulation, registration and fitness to practise issues.
If you are facing NMC hearings, don't come alone, get qualified help from our nursing defence barristers"
An overview of sanctions the NMC can impose
5,183 were complaints about nurses or midwives in 2014-2015 and a significant portion of those complaints led to NMC hearings, the outcomes of which are posted to the NMC website on their ‘Hearings and Outcomes’ section.
How NMC sanctions work
When the panel has decided as a result of the findings at an NMC hearing that a nurse or midwife’s fitness to practise is found to be lacking, a range of sanctions (otherwise referred to as restrictions) can be imposed. The intended function of these sanctions is for the protection of the public, the maintenance of public confidence in both the nursing and midwifery professions and the NMC and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and performance. These sanctions are not intended to be imposed as a ‘punishment’ for the nurse or midwife.
An interim orders can be imposed by the NMC which will temporarily suspend or restrict the nurse or midwife’s practice for the period of time during which their case is being investigated. A risk assessment is carried out by the screening team when they receive a referral. If the screening team are able to identify particular risks (e.g. the risk of harm to the public), the case may then be referred to an interim order hearing.
Conditions of practice orders
A Conditions of Practice order places a restriction a nurse or midwife’s practice for up to three years. These orders are applied when a nurse or midwife is considered capable of improvement. When such orders are applied, nurses and midwives are required to comply with the restrictions or directions in order to practise. Examples of the types of limitations imposed by these orders may include restriction from working in a particular setting, restriction from carrying out some aspects of the job, such as medicines administration, without supervision, the requirement to to undertake retraining and being directed to engage with particular services, such as occupational health. The Conditions of Practise order can be applied for up to three years, and must be reviewed by a fitness to practise panel before expiry.
Following NMC hearings, a caution order can be imposed. This happens when a nurse or midwife is cautioned for their behaviour but is allowed to continue to practise without any restriction. The caution order can last between one and five years. During this period employers can check the practitioners registration details and find out why the caution order has been issued and how long for.
The suspension order defines a period of suspension. In the first instance this will not exceed one year. However, the period of suspension may be extended to a longer time following a committee panel review of the order. Information about a suspension order may be seen by any employer when checking a nurse or midwife’s registration status.
If a nurse or midwife is struck off, their name is removed from our register and they are not allowed to work as a nurse or midwife in the UK.
Restoration to the NMC register
In order to return to practise after being struck off, a nurse or midwife must make an application to be restored to the register. A committee will then decide at an NMC hearing whether or not the former nurse or midwife is to be permitted to be readmitted to the NMC register.
NMC Defence Barristers are here to help
Nurses facing hearings at the NMC often feel extremely isolated and very anxious. If you are dealing with issues with registration, have had a complaint made against your fitness to practise or have been referred to NMC for investigation then we can help. We offer an professional nurses defence service. Our nursing lawyers have a great track record in representing clients before a variety of tribunals. Over the years we have represented numerous nurses and midwives working in a wide variety of clinical settings and levels of seniority.
Contact us as early as possible to receive professional assistance.