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'Unfit' nurses could avoid FtP hearing


Nurses and midwives accused of being unfit to practice could avoid a full hearing if they admit their guilt, under proposals being put forward by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The regulator is consulting on changes to fitness to practise procedures in order to speed up the process and tackle the growing backlog of cases. Since December the number of open cases has been increasing by an average of 127 a month, up to 4,461 in April.

The NMC was criticised for repeatedly failing to get on top of the problem in a damning report from the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence last month.

NMC acting chief executive Jackie Smith said the proposals were designed to minimise the number of hearing days.

“Each hearing day costs several thousand pounds so these proposals would bring much needed efficiencies to the fitness to practise process,” she said.

If they go ahead the changes would mean a registrant could avoid a full hearing if they admit the facts and agree their fitness to practise is impaired.

Under the proposal, known as “consensual disposal” the parties involved would agree a sanction, such as suspension, restrictions on practice or further training, that would then go to an NMC panel for approval. The process is already available to doctors.

The consultation also proposes holding any preliminary case meetings by teleconference and introducing a more stringent requirement to respond to NMC requests for information.

For example, if a registrant failed to respond to a letter requiring them to confirm or deny the facts of an allegation within 28 days they would be deemed to have admitted the facts. The NMC said this would avoid witnesses being called unnecessarily and make it easier to schedule hearings.

Unite professional officer Dave Munday told Nursing Times the union would be scrutinising the proposals carefully. He added: “We shouldn’t restrict someone’s right to justice because the NMC is trying to get through the backlog of referrals.”

Ms Smith said the regulator was “absolutely focused” on carrying out Fitness to Practise functions in a way that is “effective, fair, and above all in the public interest”.

The consultation will close at the end of July.


Readers' comments (13)

  • God help any nurse who may be ill or on holiday for 28 days and therefore unable to respond to an allegation.

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  • they could be court-martialled!

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  • Yes well said 28 days where is the justice?

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  • I always thought that in the UK you were innocent until proved guilty. No justice here. Very sad.

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  • Malleus malificarum. Hmm.

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  • I am an unfit nurse. I mean, this job has, after years of blood, sweat and tears, physically and mentally gubbed me. Does this mean that I should be hauled up before the NMC beak?! My back, shoulders and knees are shot and my nerves are shredded. I'M GUILTY. It's a fair cop!

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  • Surely the money spent on these hearings could be more beneficial to those who are in desperate need of life saving treatment and those who are denied such treatment on the grounds of cost, I thought nursing was a caring profession, of course bad practice should be addressed but surely there is a better way of doing so than subjecting a nurse to years of sheer hell, loss of earnings etc simply because they have dared to challenge management? The NHS is in real danger of complete meltdown unless the government does something about the number of managers who have not practised as a nurse for many years but who are responsible for determining a nurses fitness to practice, also, the NMC panel should all have medical qualifications, how can someone who is not and never have been a nurse judge?? It seems to me that, you are guilty whatever you say or do, where is the support for nurses who have to endure NMC hearings, often held in London, with no access to a barrister unless they are rich and who are totally reliant on union representation when the outcome could well be that they are never able to practice as a nurse again, the whole system is fundamentally flawed and extremely punitive in nature, I have my hair shirt on as I write.........

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  • This is really a case of trying to be professional as well. Part of being a professional, responsible nurse is to admit mistakes. Of course, someone who is truly incompetent may not even recognise mistakes!! This is a journalists opinion of the NMC proposals so I feel I would like more informationso hopefully I can find it rather than reading about it in the press. However, as long as it is not a means to cut the waiting list (that horrifies me), but a way of being able to sort out fitness to practise I feel there may be some merit in it. At least people are not suspended or even still working when they should not be while they wait a long time to get a decision. This also may help them to start re-training sooner or suspended properly.

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  • I am saddened by the comments above. As professional nurses we should always put the interests of patients first. We are all human and make mistakes and should be able to address these mistakes with the support of the NMC and our professional organisations as rapidly as possible. We should not mix the arguments of the NMC backlog of cases, which is another discussion, with the rights of patients to be protected from nurses who did not demonstrate competence at the time an error was made.
    Nurses who have injuries from work related incidents should be seeking support and compensation not using it as an argument to excuse poor standards of care.
    Let's have some professional comments please based on the evidence we should be using to to comment on this issues and also in providing best care for our patients.

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  • I agree that the process needs to be speeded up. Following a medication error I would probably have been gtiven a Caution if it had been dealt with immediatly. An interim order limiting my practice made me unemployable as a nurse for a year whilst waiting for my hearing. Now the Confidence and Competance committee feel there should be continued conditions on my practice because of this, but are undecided as to what sort of conditions as I would then continue to remain unemployable as a nurse which would in effect be the same as a striking off. This has imposed great cost on mental well being, and the financial hardship has been overwhelming, finally I did find employment, but not as a nurse and I was only able to earn a fraction of what I earned as a nurse.

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