Journalists condemn new NMC rules to keep disciplinary details private

Journalists have written to the chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) urging her to reverse its decision not to publish charges ahead of disciplinary hearings.

Journalists have written to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) urging it to reverse its recent decision to no longer publish details of allegations ahead of disciplinary hearings.

Representatives from various media organisations signed the letter to the NMC, asking for a
reversal of its position on publishing details of allegations ahead of hearings. Picture: Barney Newman

The letter to NMC chief executive Jackie Smith was composed by Central News director Guy Toyn and signed by representatives from the Guardian, BBC, The Times and Press Association.

The journalists claim the decision to only publish the dates and locations of Fitness to Practice (FtP) hearings alongside a new single-line description of the charge – 'misconduct or lack of competence' – could prevent justice from being seen to be done.

'Making mockery of transparency'

The letter said: 'This makes hearings almost impossible to cover as there is little point in sending a reporter to a hearing if he or she has no idea what it is about.

‘This decision makes a mockery of the Council's stated aim of transparency, and serves no practical purpose whatsoever.

‘We invite you to urgently reconsider this matter. Ultimately it is damaging to the NMC, the profession and the public.’

However, the regulator insisted it balanced privacy rights against press access.

Ms Smith referred to the decision at an NMC board meeting in London on 28 September.

She said: ‘There has been considerable press interest in our decision not to publish charges on our website.

‘There was a suggestion this was in response to the Pauline Cafferkey hearing, but that is not the case.

‘It is something our FtP service had been considering for some time. We took advice from the Information Commissioner and we acted on that advice.’

One draft charge of dishonesty relating to Ms Cafferkey – the Ebola nurse cleared of misconduct over claims she deliberately concealed her condition – was published on the NMC website ahead of her hearing, but was dropped when the hearing began.

Further information

Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey cleared of misconduct by the NMC

NMC panel told to disregard dishonesty claim against Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey