The Fitness to Practise Committee is made up of registered nurses or midwives and lay members. The Committee considers cases where a nurse, midwife or nursing associate’s fitness to practise is alleged to be impaired due to:
- lack of competence
- a conviction or caution for a criminal offence
- not having the necessary knowledge of English
- physical or mental health
- a finding by any other health or social care regulator or licensing body that fitness to practise is impaired.
Fitness to practise hearings are usually held in public to reflect our accountability to the public. 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, midwife or nursing associate’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.
Panels decide whether a nurse, midwife or nursing associate’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. When making this decision, panels consider the standards expected of a registered nurse, midwife or nursing associate ordinarily working at that level of practice – not for the highest possible level of practice. Panels will also look at the standards and guidance set out by us.
Even if there has been a breach of a standard set out in the Code or failure to follow guidance in the past, it does not automatically mean that a nurse, midwife or nursing associate’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. That is for the panel to decide, having considered any evidence regarding what has happened since the breach or failures occurred.
If the panel decide that a nurse, midwife or nursing associate’s fitness to practise is impaired, then the panel uses our sanctions guidance to choose which of the available sanctions is most appropriate. First, the panel must consider whether it is appropriate not to take any further action. If the panel decides this option is not appropriate, it can:
- issue a caution for a period of between one and five years
- impose conditions of practice for a period of up to three years
- suspend the nurse, midwife or nursing associate’s registration for up to one year, or
- strike off the nurse, midwife or nursing associate from the register.
When considering health cases, lack of competence cases or cases where fitness to practise is impaired by not having the necessary knowledge of English, a panel of the Fitness to Practise Committee cannot make a decision to impose a striking off order the first time the case is heard. The panel can only apply this sanction if the nurse, midwife or nursing associate has been continuously suspended or subject to conditions of practice order for the previous two years (this does not include interim orders).