Information about hearings during Covid-19
Types of hearings we're undertaking
While our offices and hearings centres have been closed, we’ve been holding some fitness to practise hearings virtually via video and audio conference.
These have mainly been hearings where we need to manage an immediate risk to the public, such as interim orders and substantive order reviews.
We can’t run all hearings virtually, so we're resuming some physical hearings from September 2020 to progress some cases that have been postponed due to Covid-19.
Our hearings will be a mixture of physical and virtual events. Over time we will increase the number and types of hearings we can hold virtually, as well as the number of physical hearings we can hold.
Deciding how we will hold a hearing
We will treat each hearing on a case-by-case basis when deciding how to hold the hearing.
Hearings may be held virtually, physically or in some cases through a mixture of both physical and virtual attendance. Our updated guidance for the Covid-19 emergency period sets out the (non-exhaustive) list of factors we will consider, including:
- the view of participants in the hearing,
- whether everyone can take part in a virtual hearing,
- the complexity of the hearing, including factors such as its length and the number of registrants, witnesses, and charges involved, and
- whether a particular format might prevent the hearing from running fairly and smoothly.
Find out more about our approach to hearings in our NMC guidance during the Covid-19 emergency period.
Our physical hearings will begin in London and Edinburgh, and will initially be short hearings that won't require many participants, before moving on to more complex hearings.
Our activity levels will be lower than usual, with a maximum of three hearings in our London centre and one hearing in our Edinburgh centre at a time.
Over time, we hope to be able to increase the number of physical hearings, but we'll only do this for cases where it’s necessary to hold them physically.
Ensuring safety at physical hearings
We're following government guidelines to make sure all attendees and staff at our hearing centres are welcomed into a Covid-secure environment.
Some measures we’re taking include:
- giving information in advance to all attendees on what to expect and what is expected of them
- staggered start times, controlled lift access and a one-way system to control the flow of people
- providing hand sanitisers throughout our hearings centres
- screened partitions in our receptions and hearing rooms
- fresh air flow through the air conditioning system
- enhanced cleaning arrangements.
We've put together a guide to answer your questions on attending physical hearings:
We’ve carried out risk assessments to consider the risks of reopening our hearings centres and resuming physical hearings. They cover areas including cleanliness, social distancing, equipment, travel and protocols if someone is unwell. You can view these risk assessments below.
Risk assessment on workplace safety for our staff
This assessment outlines the safety arrangements we will use to keep people safe and prevent the spread of coronavirus as some of our colleagues return to work in our buildings.
Risk assessments for individual buildings
These assessments outline the safety arrangements we will use to keep our colleagues and visitors safe and prevent the spread of coronavirus within our individual premises.
- Risk assessment for 2 Stratford Place, London
- Risk assessment for 114/116 George Street, Edinburgh
- Risk assessment for One Westfield Avenue, London (not used for hearings)
If we’re holding a hearing virtually, we’ll send everyone involved the information on how to attend the hearing remotely.
Those who can't attend a virtual hearing because of the Covid-19 pandemic or those who are worried about how a virtual hearing will work, please email the person managing the case as soon as possible.
Attending your virtual hearing
Usually on the day before a hearing, a member of our hearings team will hold a test call so that everyone is familiar with the technology.
Shortly before the hearing, a member of the hearings team will send the meeting link to those involved so they can join the hearing when the time comes. Our panel and the other parties attending will be flexible and patient so that those can participate can do so effectively.
As with other hearings, virtual hearings may need to consider confidential or sensitive issues, for example, where matters relate to someone's health. When this happens, it is common for the panel hearing the case to agree that such private matters should be heard in private, rather in public session. This applies whether a hearing is virtual or physical.
We've put together two guides to answer any questions and guide people through our new virtual fitness to practise events:
- A guide for nurses, midwives, nursing associates and their representatives
- A guide to Egress Switch and GoToMeeting
If you're worried or need any adjustments, please let us know as soon as possible. We'll always try to accommodate reasonable adjustments where possible.
Public access to hearings
Members of the public are usually allowed to observe certain hearings, but becasue of the current government measures access to the public is limited.
Find out more about our current restrictions by viewing the NMC guidance during the Covid-19 emergency period.
We are resuming access for observers over the next few weeks. Find out more about attending a hearing as a member of the public.