Attending a hearing

How you can observe a hearing

Fitness to practise hearings are held in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast and other locations across the UK.

Hearings are held in public, however, the panel may agree to hold parts of or all of the case in private, to protect the anonymity of the alleged victim, or if confidential medical evidence is shared. In cases where a nurse or midwife’s fitness to practise is alleged to be impaired by reason of health then the hearing will be held in private due to the confidential nature of these cases.

Observing a hearing

Members of the public are usually allowed to observe our hearings. Anyone wishing to do so can view a schedule of upcoming hearings on our website.

Hearings can be subject to sudden cancellation or postponement and in certain instances part or all of a case may be heard in private. If you have a particular preference for a case, we advise that you contact us the day before your attendance.

Places are allocated on a first come, first served basis. Because of security requirements and health and safety restrictions, there can only be a maximum of 10 observers in each hearing room.

If your chosen hearing is unavailable, we will try to find another hearing for you to observe. Please note however, that this may not always be possible and you may be required to wait.

You can find directions to our main hearing venues on our website. When you arrive please speak with reception staff and they can direct you as appropriate.

Group observations

We request that groups of five or more observers book before attending. This will assist us in ensuring space is available to accommodate. If you would like to make a group booking please fill out an attendance form.

Please call the day before the hearing to confirm your booking on 020 7462 5800 or 020 7462 5801.

Hearing times

Our hearings normally start at 09:30 (09:00 for interim order hearings) and finish at 17:30. Observers are free to enter and leave the hearing room at any time during the proceedings, provided the case is not in private session.

What to expect

Like most legal proceedings, attending a case requires a lot of waiting. Whenever the panel deliberates, the case will go into private session and attendees will be asked to leave the hearing room. There are several intervals throughout the day. In these intervals, we can allocate you to another case upon your request. However, this is not always possible and you may have to wait.

Please dress appropriately, as these are formal proceedings.

Arriving late or leaving early

You do not need to notify us if you are arriving late or leaving early. All attendees are free to enter and leave the hearing at any time during the proceedings (provided the panel is not in private session).

During the hearing

The following people will be in the hearing room:

The panel
There will usually be three panel members present. They are independent of the NMC and completely impartial. At least one member of the panel will be a nurse or midwife. There will also be at least one lay member on the panel. This means they are from outside the profession and not on the NMC register.

The panel also includes a chair person who is an experienced panel member and is responsible for the proceedings.

The chair and the panel members are solely responsible for making the decision.

Legal assessor
The legal assessor is an independent and experienced barrister or solicitor. The legal assessor advises the panel on the law.

Case presenter
The case presenter sits away from the panel. They will act as prosecutor in the case, on behalf of the NMC, and will be calling the witnesses.

Panel secretary
The panel secretary is a member of NMC staff. The panel secretary helps the panel to run the hearing and draft its decision. The panel secretary will be a key contact for you throughout the day.

Nurse or midwife
The nurse or midwife under investigation may be present at the hearing. They may also be accompanied by a representative who will put their case forward on their behalf.

Witnesses
Witnesses can be called by the NMC or by the nurse or midwife under investigation. Witnesses give evidence under oath about what happened.

Shorthand writer
There may be a shorthand writer or logger present throughout the hearing, in both public and private sessions, to record the proceedings.

Resuming hearings

These are cases that started at an earlier date, were adjourned and will resume at a later date. Observers are generally not recommended to attend these, as most issues and evidence have already been heard. However, our hearings are open to the public and you are welcome to attend a resuming hearing.

Nursing and midwifery cases

The procedure for nursing and midwifery cases is virtually identical. The difference lies in the content matter. Therefore, you will gain a feel for the procedure by attending any NMC case.

Noise and disturbances

Please ensure your phone is turned off and you remain silent during the hearing. Do not distract the panellists or others present at the hearings in any way.

You cannot bring canned drinks or food into the hearing room, however screw-top drinks are allowed.

Recording equipment

You cannot digitally record the hearing, however you may take manual notes if you wish to do so.

Fire safety

Please make sure you know where the fire escapes are. In the event of an evacuation, our staff will help you.

If you have any questions about the proceedings, you should speak to the panel secretary or reception staff.