I have been referred to the NMC
‘I have been referred to the NMC’ – If you find out that you are going to be the subject of investigation by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, you need to be properly informed about the process and it is vital that you act quickly. In a recent article in the Nursing Times, Barker J (2014) discusses the situation in ‘What to do if you are referred to the NMC’. Nursing Times; 110: 17, 10-12.
The key points you need to know
- A nurse or midwife is most likely to find out a complaint has been made against when they receive a letter of notification from the NMC.
- Any delays in responding to a notice of referral can result in further charges and reduce mitigation opportunities.
- A complaint can be triggered in a variety of ways. These include circumstances when a person refers themselves, for example if they have a criminal conviction.
- Fitness to practise committees can impose conditions of practice, such as suspension, during an investigation.
- Professionals are advised to seek representation from a lawyer familiar with this area of the law.
When registered nurses and midwives are referred to the NMC, this can trigger an investigation and a hearing to decide whether they are fit to practise. The NMC will investigate allegations fitness to practise allegations about:
- Lack of competence
- Character issues
- Serious ill health
The Nursing times describes the emotional state of nurses and midwives referred to the NMC very well:
“Being the subject of any professional regulator’s investigation can be a daunting experience. Many people in this situation feel caught up in a hostile mechanism where the regulator’s only concern seems to be achieving what may appear to be an already-decided outcome. This may be because the regulator is not only responsible for prosecuting but also for putting together the case, funding it, organising the investigation and hearings, and appointing the committees that will determine the outcome of the complaint.”
Despite this being a daunting and unwelcome experience, nurses and midwives accused of fitness to practise shortcomings before the NMC can take positive steps to help deal with this situation.
‘I have been referred to the NMC’ – if this is you then you need to be aware that whilst becoming the subject of NMC proceedings is something any nurse or midwife would wish to avoid, such investigations are not as rare as you might think – in fact, in 2012-13 there were 4,106 referrals to the NMC. The time elapsed from initially receiving the letter of notification through to conclusion of the case is likely to be fairly long – in 2012-13 the average time from conclusion of an investigation to adjudication hearing was 8.4 months.
If you are referred to the NMC, there are two golden rules to ensure you receive a fair hearing and decision:
- No matter how frustrating it seems, engage with the process in a professional manner;
- Ensure you have advice and representation from someone with sound knowledge of the area and in whom you have complete confidence.
Barker J (2014), Nursing Times
As a former senior nurse, our barrister 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. Find out more.
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Nurses and midwives facing NMC fitness to practise allegations often feel isolated and extremely anxious. If you are a registered practitioner facing issues with registration, have had a complaint made against you, are facing allegations about your ability to practise or have been referred to NMC for investigation, we can help. We have considerable experience before a variety of tribunals and have represented numerous nurses and midwives working in a wide variety of clinical settings.
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