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Scottish lawyers keen to defend unrepresented nurses in cases with NMC

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Nurses and midwives should not have to face the trauma of disciplinary proceedings alone, says a group of Scottish lawyers keen to tackle perceptions their services “cost an arm and a leg”.

Up to 60 advocates are undertaking specialist training on the work of health and social care regulators, such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council, so they can represent nurses and others whose reputation and career are on the line.

“It is important to have somebody representing your interests who is on a par with that”

Angela Grahame

They are urging nurses and midwives from Scotland and further afield to seek advice from the Scottish bar if their fitness to practise is called into question, as part of wider efforts to ensure access to justice.

Angela Grahame QC, vice dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said the scheme had been sparked by concern over the number of nurses and other care professionals appearing before conduct and fitness to practise hearings totally unrepresented.

“Some people are very good at representing themselves at hearings but others find it very difficult to speak in public,” she said. “They don’t know what the rules and procedures are and don’t have sufficient guidance to help them.

“I think they are at a disadvantage,” she said. “If you are faced with a room full of lawyers, it is important to have somebody representing your interests who is on a par with that.

“It’s less stressful for people to know they have someone on their side who can do a really good job at presenting their position,” she added.

“We want to break down perceptions that we are really scary and cost a fortune”

Angela Grahame

Ms Grahame accepted nurses and midwives may be put off seeking legal advice, because they were worried about the cost, but she stressed employing an advocate did not have to “cost a fortune”.

“We want to break down perceptions that we are really scary and cost a fortune and simply picking up the phone will cost you everything you have,” she said.

Many advocates are prepared to work on a no win, no fee basis or cap fees, she told Nursing Times.

“We can offer them a range of people who can represent them – people who are more junior or people who are more senior,” she said.

Faculty of Advocates

Exclusive: Lawyers keen to defend nurses in FtP cases

Angela Grahame

“We can cap fees and have all sorts of arrangements that can be entered into, if they ultimately do want to pay for it,” she noted.

In some cases, nurses and others may be eligible for free legal representation via the faculty’s Free Legal Services Unit. It takes up “deserving” cases generally for people on low incomes or with no means and without representation.

“They may have started the process or lost a case and be in a terrible state,” said Ms Grahame. “They may have been treated poorly and there has been a breach of natural justice, so it is in the interests of justice they be helped out.”

The faculty is also able to give initial advice, including on ways to cover fees. “A lot of people have home insurance with legal protection cover and they maybe don’t realise that could cover a situation such as this,” said Ms Grahame. “Or their employers might have insurance that could cover legal representation.

“These are things a lawyer knows to ask, but a lot of people don’t seek advice. At the moment people are doing things themselves and not doing it very well,” she said.

Faculty of Advocates

Exclusive: Lawyers keen to defend nurses in FtP cases

Parliament House, home of Scotland’s supreme courts, where the Faculty of Advocates has its base

Another misconception was that people always needed to go to a solicitor first. However, members of professional bodies, including the Royal College of Nursing, can instruct an advocate without the need for a solicitor through “direct access”, she said.

“We just want people to be aware it is an option – it’s literally one phone call,” said Ms Grahame. “We don’t want people to feel intimidated because we have a body of people who have said they would really like to help.”

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • So is this a desire to help, or a promotion of their commercial services ?

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  • One eyebrow twitched when I read not just for Scotland, but those farther afield might be helped. Very enterprising, I must say.

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  • What do we have at present? A small group of nurses and midwives who have been through or are going through the FtP torture, which can last for many years. At least the nurses and their families know they are not alone during this life shattering experience. There is someone to talk to.
    The NMC Nurses and midwives Condemned are on face book but all we can give is support and advice gained through experience.
    As for the No win No fee scenario where is it? I searched for one and was unable to find any. Advocates would be a good option.
    With my case I went to appeal and won. The cost was £7000 which eventually the NMC paid.. How many nurses have got £7000 after years of unemployment, often losing jobs, homes, families.
    Personally if I had the money I would like to sue the NMC for the psychological abuse they put me through. The NMC have perfected the process of Coercive Control Abuse to perfection.

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  • What is required is a Crowd Fund. Take the NMC to court and claim damages for 9 months of duress. Also when a nurse is found to have no case to answer the complaining body or individual foots the bill for the whole malign process.

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