NMC investigations examine allegations that a nurse or midwife’s fitness to practise is impaired. Allegations are usually made on grounds of misconduct, a criminal conviction/caution, lack of competence or ill health.
The expert solicitors at the MedicAssistanceScheme have worked with nurses and midwives for years, helping them throughout the NMC investigation process. Get in touch with us to discuss your case.
Can the NMC investigate incidents that occur outside of the workplace?
In short, yes. The NMC can investigate a complaint, even if it falls outside a nurse or midwife’s clinical conduct. For example, if a nurse receives a police caution for shoplifting, although this does not impact on patient care, the NMC is likely to allege that this conduct may bring the profession into disrepute.
The NMC uses a screening process to deal with initial enquiries. They will check that the issues raised are genuinely fitness to practise issues and something that the NMC should be concerned with. The regulatory body then gathers the initial relevant information and, if appropriate, they will then refer a case to the NMC’s Case Examiners.
NMC Case Examiners
During an investigation, the NMC may obtain witness statements, medical records and/or seek specialist advice. The NMC will disclose details of their allegations and the documentation that they wish to rely upon and will invite a nurse or midwife to comment on the allegations. It is essential at this stage to obtain legal advice, before submitting any response. A response which lacks objectivity or is prepared in haste can seriously damage the ultimate outcome of the NMC’s investigation.
The NMC’s Case Examiners do not hear oral evidence, but examine the relevant paperwork and decide if there is a case for the nurse or midwife to answer. If not, then the case is closed at this stage.
However, if the Case Examiners conclude that there is a case to answer and that the case is serious enough, then they will refer the nurse or midwife to the NMC’s Fitness to Practise Committee or Health Committee for a full formal hearing.
The Case Examiners now also have the power to issue warnings, agree undertakings and to give formal advice to registrants.
The NMC’s Case Examiners now have the power to issue a warning to a nurse or midwife. A warning may be issued where the registrant accepts the basis of the NMC’s concern and demonstrates that they do not pose a clinical risk. The warning is a public record, marking that their past conduct was unacceptable. A warning will remain on the NMC’s register for 12 months. The issuing of a warning avoids the need of a referral to the NMC’s Fitness to Practise Committee.
The NMC’s Case Examiners can also now agree undertakings, which are written agreements between a nurse/midwife and the NMC. They are designed to address a problem in the registrant’s practice that poses a current risk to patients. The undertakings will usually set out specific steps that the registrant agrees to take, such as specific training. The agreement of undertakings is similar to a conditions of practice order, but by agreeing undertakings, a referral to the NMC’s Fitness to Practise Committee can be avoided.
The NMC’s Case Examiners can issue formal advice to registrants. This is given where there have been minor breaches of the Code, accepted by the registrant. Advice is a lower sanction than a warning, as it is given privately and will not appear on the register.
Investigating criminal convictions
Criminal proceedings and investigations can result in NMC investigations if the offence is deemed to affect an individual’s fitness to practise. The Medic Assistance Scheme is able to provide advice and representation with respect to the NMC’s investigation and the separate criminal proceedings.
Our panel of expert lawyers have experience including, but not limited to, the following offences:
- Motoring offences;
- Alcohol related offences;
- Drug related offences;
- Sexual offences;
- Gross Negligence Manslaughter;
- Dishonesty offences, including fraud.
Our expert defence solicitors can represent nurses and midwives in the police station, the Magistrates’ Court and the Crown Court. We are mindful of the significance of the proceedings to a nurse or midwife, both personally and professionally.
If a nurse or midwife finds themselves in restricted financial circumstances, they may be eligible for legal aid to pay for representation before the criminal courts. Our solicitors have the requisite contracts in place to be able to provide legal services under the criminal legal aid scheme, where applicable.