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Fitness to practise: nurses who engage poorly with process may face harsher sanctions

Research finds that if registrants offer evidence or insight into their actions at an early stage of an NMC investigation, it can make a positive difference to the outcome

Research finds that if registrants offer evidence or insight into their actions at an early stage of an NMC investigation, it can make a positive difference to the outcome

Nurses who do not engage with fitness to practise (FtP) investigations could risk a more severe sanction than those that do, new research suggests.

The study, commissioned by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and General Dental Council , looked at how seriousness in FtP cases is understood and applied by regulators. It found that if registrants offer evidence or insight into their actions at an early stage, it can make a positive difference to the outcome of

Research finds that if registrants offer evidence or insight into their actions at an early stage of an NMC investigation, it can make a positive difference to the outcome

Picture: Barney Newman

Nurses who do not engage with fitness to practise (FtP) investigations could risk a more severe sanction than those that do, new research suggests.

The study, commissioned by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and General Dental Council, looked at how seriousness in FtP cases is understood and applied by regulators. It found that if registrants offer evidence or insight into their actions at an early stage, it can make a positive difference to the outcome of their case.

However, if individuals engage at a late stage, or not at all, it means hearing panels may not be able to determine if patients are at risk.

Nurse engagement linked with severity of sanction

‘Demonstrating insight, and that consequently the risk of repetition is reduced, through engagement can therefore influence the severity of the sanction outcome in a case,’ states the research report.

It cites a 2017 study of 34 social workers who were subject to FtP hearings by their regulator. Of the 21 registrants who were struck off, none attended or had representation at their FtP hearings, while the remaining 13 who did engage received lesser sanctions or had no further action taken, the study found.

Nurses may be afraid to engage with regulator

Cathryn Watters

Cathryn Watters, founder of NMC Watch, an independent group that supports registrants facing FtP proceedings, said that while engagement was important, some nurses may be ‘fearful’ of doing so.

‘It is very difficult to completely engage with your regulator, when ultimately your regulator holds the keys to you being able to work,’ she added.

Context is crucial in an FtP case, report advises

NMC interim executive director of professional regulation Tom Scott said he hoped the report’s findings would encourage nurses to engage at an earlier stage.

‘We hope this will help to maintain confidence in our FtP processes and our role in supporting health and care professionals to provide safe, effective and kind care,’ he said.

The report also calls for context to be taken into consideration when deciding on the outcome of a case, echoing a pledge by NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe in 2019 that the regulator would look at context rather than focusing purely on the individual registrant.


Read the research report

The concept of seriousness in fitness to practise cases


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