nurses / midwives / nmc lawyers

If you are a nurse or midwife who has been referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) regarding allegations of impaired fitness to practise due to misconduct, a lack of competence, not having the necessary knowledge of English, criminal behaviour or serious ill health, it is important that you seek comprehensive advice and assistance from solicitors at the earliest possible stage.

You may be a nurse facing an Interim Orders hearing whilst the NMC investigates your case. This Committe has the power to impose conditions on your registration or to suspend your registration in the interim, whilst the NMC completes its investigation, which could take months. Specific tests for the imposition of such an order apply here as these hearings are not based on the available evidence. if you face an Interim Orders Committee hearing, please call our specialist team who will be happy to assist you.

Our specialist solicitors can assist at all stages of proceedings, from the initial referral to the NMC to a full Conduct and Competence Committee or Health Committee hearing.

Our regulatory lawyers can provide guidance whatever your particular circumstances are. Contact our Manchester office today by calling 0161 827 9500, or by filling in our contact form and waiting to hear from one of our experts.

burton copeland is here to help

We can offer support to nurses and midwives of all types during an investigation, hearing or trial, including advice to those employed at a hospital, GP practice, nursing home or school, those accused of committing a criminal offence, and those involved in Coroner’s Inquests.

You can be assured that your case will be handled sensitively and confidentially, and our solicitors can help you with the following:

  • Preparation for NMC Conduct and Competence hearings, Health Committee hearings and Interim Orders Committee hearings
  • Responses to the NMC Investigating Committees
  • Responses to Consensual Panel Determination
  • Police station representation
  • Preparation for and representation at criminal trials
  • Preparation for and representation at Coroner’s inquests including the drafting of witness statements

Additionally, if a decision has been made by the NMC, we can prepare an appeal to the High Court or to the Court of Session, if you are registered in Scotland, on your behalf and represent you at any subsequent appeal hearing.

what should I do when I have been notified of an nmc investigation into my fitness to practise?

The first step when you receive notification of an investigation by the NMC is to seek legal advice from a defence solicitor at Burton Copeland. Our team will review your case and help you to determine the best path to take through the proceedings. It is vital that you do not make the mistake of contacting the NMC directly, as anything you say could be used against you.

how does the investigation process work?

When a complaint is made, the NMC’s screening team will make some preliminary enquiries in order to decide whether or not there are grounds for a case. If it believes that there are grounds for a case to be brought, the screening team will pass all of the details on to the investigations team who will then proceed to prepare your case for the Case Examiners.

The NMC can only investigate complaints relating to the following:

  • misconduct;
  • lack of competence;
  • not having the necessary knowledge of English;
  • criminal behaviour;
  • serious ill health.

How an investigation progresses will depend on the nature of the complaint, but may include:

  • gathering evidence, including health records, from the complainant and any other parties;
  • carrying out an assessment of your health if the case concerns possible impairment of your fitness to practise due to your ill health;
  • seeking witness statements from the complainant, patients or other witnesses;
  • seeking comments about your work from your employers/colleagues.

The NMC will write to you explaining the allegations that have been made about you. You will then be given 28 days to respond to the complaint, should you choose to do so. Whether or not you respond, you will be required to complete a form and to provide information about your employers.

If a response is required, please contact our team who will make sure your case is put forward in the best possible light, without risk of prejudice, which may be caused if you decide to respond yourself without legal assistance.

Once all of the relevant information has been gathered by the NMC, the matter will either be referred to the Case Examiners who will consider all of the information and decide whether there is a case to answer or you will be offered the option of consensual panel determination, also known as consensual disposal of the case against you.

If the matter is considered by the Case Examiners and they find there is no case to answer, the case can be closed. If, however, they decide that there is a case to answer, your case will be referred to the Conduct and Competence Committee or to the Health Committee, depending on the circumstances of your case. If the Case Examiners cannot reach a decision in relation to your case, they can refer the matter to the Investigating Committee for a decision to be made.

If you are offered the option of consensual panel determination, you will be asked to agree to a provisional sanction or restriction on your practice. In order for consensual panel determination to take place, you must be willing to admit all of the allegations against you, admit that your fitness to practise is impaired and you must agree to the provisional sanction suggested by the NMC. Any such agreement will then be reviewed by either the Conduct and Competence Committee or by the Health Committee, depending on the circumstances of your case who can either, agree the agreement, reject it or vary it. If the Committee rejects the agreement, your case will be put before a new Committee and a full hearing will be conducted.

If you have been asked to agree to a consensual panel determination and are unsure whether to accept the allegations you or not, please contact the specialist solicitors at Burton Copeland today as we are able to provide you with the tactical advice you need to make what may not be an easy decision for you and for your future career.

what sanctions can the conduct and competence committee/health committee impose?

If your case progresses to a Professional Conduct Committee hearing and your fitness to practise is found to be impaired on the basis of allegations either admitted or found proved, this Committee can:

  • Impose a caution order - this will remain on your registration for a specified period and is a formal record to show that the Committee has concerns about your fitness to practise
  • Place restrictions on your registration for a specified period of time. This is known as a conditions of practice order
  • Suspend your registration for a specified period of time. This is called a suspension order
  • Remove your name from the register. This is known as a striking-off order

If your case progresses to a Health Committee hearing and this Committee finds your fitness to practise to be impaired, it has the same powers as the Professional Conduct Committee in relation to the sanctions it can impose.

Any sanctions imposed at a Conduct and Competence Committee or Health Committee hearing normally come into effect 28 days after the final decision has been made. Sanctions can take effect regardless of whether you were present at the hearing or not.

If the Committee decides that you are not fit to practise during the 28 day appeal period, it can impose an immediate restriction or an immediate suspension order, notwithstanding the 28-day appeal period. This will have the effect of restricting or suspending your registration until the end of the appeal process.

No matter what stage of investigation your case is at with the NMC, our team can step in and provide comprehensive advice to help you.

am I able to continue working during the investigation?

In some cases, an investigation will not prevent you from continuing to work as a nurse or midwife. However, the NMC can invite you to an interim orders hearing at any stage of the investigation if it believes that there is an immediate concern for the protection of the public.

This Committee will consider whether it should suspend your registration or place restrictions on it whilst the complaint is being investigated. Such decisions are made on the basis of very specific tests and not on the evidence or facts of your particular case.

You have the right to attend these hearings and to be legally represented.

It is therefore important that you contact the specialist team at Burton Copeland as soon as you receive a notification of an NMC interim orders hearing so that we can help to ensure the best outcome for you.

how long do investigations take?

The NMC states that it will aim to complete the investigation as quickly as possible, but it is hard to determine exactly how long this will take as much depends on factors such as the severity of the allegations, the number of allegations and the evidence to be collated. Expert reports may need to be obtained. Furthermore, assessments may need to be carried out on your performance, your health and/or your knowledge of the English language, which could elongate the timescale. The NMC should keep you and other people who are directly involved up to date on their progress and should give you an idea of how long their enquiries will take at each stage.

The specialist team at Burton Copeland will endeavour to resolve matters as quickly as possible, although our main focus is making sure you get the outcome you desire.

can I appeal a decision?

If you wish to appeal a decision of the Conduct and Competence Committee or the Health Committee, you do have a right of appeal to the High Court in England and Wales and to the Court of Session in Scotland, depending on your circumstances.

Our team are able to help you appeal a decision made by the relevant Committee. However, any appeal must be lodged with the relevant Court within 28 days of the formal notification of the NMC’s final decision on sanction.

why choose us?

Our friendly and approachable team has the expertise to guide you through an NMC investigation. We will look at all the evidence and take into account your instructions to create the strongest possible defence, ensuring that your interests are protected and lessening the likelihood of a severe sanction which could be career-ending.

Burton Copeland is ranked by Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500 for legal services, so you can rest assured we will do our utmost to help you during this difficult time.

how to contact us

If you face allegations of impairment of fitness to practise at the NMC, if you have been called to the Coroner's Court to give evidence or if you are a nurse facing criminal allegations, please get in touch with our specialist team of solicitors 24 hours a day, seven days a week for advice and guidance by either calling 0161 827 9500 during office hours, or 0161 832 7834 at any other time. You can also complete our online form to let our team know that you wish to be contacted.