The nursing profession has been dogged by stories of poor care recently, but the health sector relies on nursesthemselves to speak out when they see unacceptable care.
However, nurses who have been called as witnesses in fitness to practise hearings in the past have told me they found the experience traumatic. Facing the person they are providing evidence against and being questioned about what they claim to have seen or heard is obviously a recipe for anxiety.
As if to prove the point, the General Medical Council has decided to offer independent emotional support to those giving evidence in GMC hearings before and during the day of the hearing. The regulator and Victim Support have launched a joint initiative to offer the service to anyone making a complaint to the GMC as well as to all witnesses giving evidence at hearings.
I imagine nurses would welcome a similar scheme, but it’s unlikely to happen because the fees paid to the Nursing and Midwifery Council are considerably less than those paid to the GMC.
That said, the NMC has been making moves to offer more support to witnesses. Staff are now available to look after witnesses on the day of the hearing, and more formal venues are also available to hear cases, which witnesses say they prefer.
The advice from nurses who have been through the process is to keep detailed records if you are worried about a colleague’s performance, noting the date, times and details of your concerns. This will help you to decide if they are valid and ensure you are able to justify them.
In short, if you see something that needs referral, don’t be put off by the horror stories of old but do make sure you are prepared to discuss it. If nursing is to be put under the spotlight it would be better for the profession if nurses are the ones shining the light.
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