NMC allows suspended nurses to return to practice to shore up COVID-19 effort

Regulator softens sanctions to help employers ease nurse staffing pressures during pandemic

Four nurses suspended from the register have been allowed to return to practice in efforts to shore up the workforce during the pandemic.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has identified 12 cases where registrants were originally suspended on public interest grounds only, and where no risk to patient safety was found. 

Independent case reviews

The regulator said independent panels were reviewing the cases to establish whether reduced sanctions would be appropriate, to allow individuals to return to practice 'where safe to do so'. 

Nursing Standard understands one suspended nurse has had all sanctions removed, and three others have had suspensions replaced with cautions, which is the lowest-level sanction and does not restrict practice.

Trust asked NMC to allow Band 7 sister to return to work

One of the cases involves an emergency department nurse suspended from the register for six months in January for working shifts at other trusts while off sick from her own. She earned more than £2,000 by doing so.

But in April, her employer wrote to the NMC, requesting it review her case. It wanted her to return to practice as a band 7 sister in an isolation area for patients with suspected COVID-19.

Her employer told the NMC the nurse had become 'an exemplary member' of the ED nursing team and the original sanction imposed had 'no relation' to her clinical competence.

The NMC stated: 'After careful consideration the trust considers her clinical capability to be more than acceptable and that it is in the public interest to remove the order for her to undertake the important role of caring for the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.'

Revisiting FtP sanctions

NMC deputy director of professional regulation Clare Strickland said the NMC recently looked carefully at how it conducts its fitness to practise casework in light of the pandemic. 

Ms Strickland said: ‘As part of this, we have been able to identify a small number of cases where a sanction was imposed on public interest grounds only, and where no risk to patient safety was found. 

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‘In some of these cases, our independent panels have carried out a review of the original sanction – alongside additional information provided by the registrant or their representative – to consider whether a new sanction is now appropriate so that individuals can return to practice where it is safe to do so. 

‘As always, panel decisions will be reviewed by our usual quality assurance process.'

In March, the NMC, along with other health regulators, said it would consider the context of fitness to practise cases that may arise in relation to care given during a coronavirus outbreak.

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