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.
We're now considering which hearings that were postponed can be listed for either a virtual hearing or a physical hearing.
There's a lot to consider to make sure that we go about this fairly. We must make decisions in the interests of all parties and the public.
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 your hearing virtually, we’ll send you information on how you can attend your hearing remotely.
If you can't attend a virtual hearing because of the Covid-19 pandemic or you're worried about how a virtual hearing will work, please email the person managing your case as soon as possible.
Attending your virtual hearing
Usually on the day before your hearing, a member of our hearings team will hold a test call with you so that you are familiar with the technology.
Shortly before the hearing, a member of the hearings team will send the meeting link to you so you can join the hearing when the time comes. Our panel and the other parties attending will be flexible and patient so that you can participate 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 your questions and guide you 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 because of the current government measures access to the public is limited.
You can 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.
Answering your questions
Please inform your case officer if you feel unwell and won’t be able to participate in the hearing. Please also indicate whether you would be happy for the panel to proceed with the hearing in your absence.
Any correspondence you send will be put before the panel and they will consider whether they can hear your case without you being there. We will be prioritising early reviews of decisions made where the registrant wasn’t able to attend because they were unwell, so please let your case officer know if you would like us to do this.
Please let us know if your representative becomes unavailable due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We understand the difficulties this would create and will usually be able to provide additional time for you to engage with us.
The exception to this would be if you receive notice of an interim order hearing. Our interim order hearings will need to go ahead as planned, although the panel will be informed of your circumstances. The panel will then consider whether it is appropriate to proceed with the hearing. If an interim order is imposed at that hearing, it will also be possible for you to apply for an early review of your interim order once your representative becomes available again.
During this difficult time we may find that we can’t arrange for a registrant panel member to consider your case. If this happens and you’re unhappy let us know and we will prioritise holding an early review in your case with a panel including a nurse or midwife.
During this difficult time we may find that we can’t arrange for three panel members to consider your case. If this happens and you’re unhappy let us know and we will prioritise holding an early review in your case with a panel of three, including a nurse or midwife.