How you can observe a hearing

NMC hearings are now taking place at our hearings centres (a ‘physical hearing’) as well as virtually. Due to social distancing requirements, and bandwidth capacity in relation to our virtual hearings, we have had to introduce some formalities in relation to enabling observers to attend our hearings.

If you would like to observe a physical or virtual hearing, please complete this form, making sure that you agree to the protocol for observing an NMC hearing.

So that we can process your application in time, we need you to submit the form no later than two working days before the start of the hearing. This allows us to understand how many applications we have and how many we will be able to accept, as we have limited capacity for enabling members of the public to observe physical and virtual hearings.

Unless you live in an area which is subject to travel restrictions, you can view a physical hearing in person at one of our hearing centres. There is disabled access to all of our hearing centres.

Because of the travel restrictions currently operating across some parts of the UK, depending on where you live, it may not now be possible for you to attend one of our physical hearings at our hearing centres. If you live in an area subject to travel restrictions, you should only attend a physical hearing in the following circumstances:

  • Where you need to attend in order to support someone directly involved in the hearing (for example a nurse, midwife, nursing associate or witness). However, it will usually only be possible to allow one person to attend to support each participant
  • Journalists attending a hearing to report proceedings to the public

For virtual hearings, we are able to grant a limited number of observers audio-only access. If audio-only access is difficult for you, or you need any other reasonable adjustment to observe a virtual hearing, please let us know.

If you have any questions about observing a hearing, please email us.

You can view a schedule of upcoming hearings.

Find out more about attending hearings during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What to expect

Hearing times

Our hearings normally start at 09:30 (09:00 for interim order hearings) and finish by around 17:30, but may run later than that. The normal start time may vary for physical hearings, because of the need to stagger start times to manage the flow of people into and around the building. If you are attending a virtual hearing, please wait until you are asked to join the hearing by the panel secretary.

Public or private hearings

Our hearings are usually held in public. However, a panel can hear all or part of a hearing in private when it is satisfied that it is reasonable and proportionate to do so, and it is justified in the interests of any party (including any third party) or is in the public interest.

Fitness to practise cases which are focused on the health of the nurse, midwife or nursing associate concerned will be held in private, due to the confidential nature of these cases.

This applies whether a hearing is being held virtually, or physically at a hearings centre.

During the hearing

The following people will be part of the hearing:

The panel

There will usually be three panel members present. At least one member of the panel will be a registered nurse, midwife or nursing associate. There will also be at least one “lay” member on the panel. A “lay” member is someone who is not a nurse, midwife or nursing associate.

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

The panel is are responsible for making the decision on behalf of the NMC. However, the panel is wholly independent of the NMC and is completely impartial.

The legal assessor

The legal assessor is an independent and experienced barrister or solicitor. The legal assessor advises the panel on any relevant law, to support the panel’s decision-making.

The case presenter

The case presenter is separate from the panel. They will present the case on behalf of the NMC.

The panel secretary

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

The registered nurse, midwife or nursing associate

The nurse, midwife or nursing associate 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, midwife or nursing associate. Witnesses give evidence about what happened under oath or by affirming that what they are saying is true.

The shorthand writer

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

Supporters

A McKenzie friend can assist someone involved in a lawsuit in a court of law in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland by prompting, taking notes, and quietly giving advice. They don't need to be legally trained or have professional legal qualifications.

Unlike other Court jurisdictions, the NMC doesn't formally recognise McKenzie Friends in its regulatory proceedings because we’re not a Court service where the term and role of a McKenzie friend originated. Our tribunal set up has its own Order, Rules and Practices and as a result, practices in Court can influence what we do, but we don’t have to mirror them.

But we do take a similar approach to the Civil and Family Courts regarding supporters who aren't representing registrants. This means we recognise that registrants involved in our hearings may wish to have someone to support them who won't be representing or advocating for them.

This person can provide moral support and take notes but not act as the registrant's representative. For example, they wouldn't directly address the panel, make submissions or examine witnesses. The person must provide advance notice of their intention to attend and indicate from the start that they understand the limitations of their role.

The panel retains the discretion to refuse a supporter to attend any part of a hearing, but they should give reasons if they choose to do so. The panel will listen to the views of the registrant and will keep any decision under review.

We have witness liaison officers who can support registrants and those giving evidence at hearings, for example by assisting with arrangements needed to give evidence, or by being in the room with the witness while they give evidence.

Resuming hearings

These are cases that started at an earlier date, were adjourned and will resume at a later date. You are welcome to attend a resuming hearing, subject to capacity constraints.

Nursing, midwifery and nursing associate cases

The procedure for nursing, midwifery and nursing associate cases is essentially 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 make sure 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.

If attending a physical hearing, you cannot bring canned drinks or food into the hearing room, however screw-top drinks are allowed.

Recording is not allowed

You cannot digitally record the hearing, whether video or audio, but you may take manual or handwritten notes if you wish to do so. You can also ask for a transcript of the hearing after it has concluded, but we would usually expect you to pay for the cost of this.