Jargon buster

Frequently used terms explained at a glance.

Adjournments

The panel may decide to pause the hearing. This is called an adjournment. The panel will adjourn for lunch, and for comfort breaks and at the end of each day. If you need a comfort break while giving your evidence, please let the panel know. The panel may need to break for longer periods for certain circumstances, for example, if the parties need time to discuss something or if they need further documentation or evidence which would be relevant to the case.

Case examiner 

After we finish our investigation, a case examiner  considers the evidence presented and decides whether to send the case to a Fitness to Practise Committee hearing, or if it can be closed.

Case coordinator/investigation officer 

This is one of our staff who manages and oversees the case. You can contact them with any questions you have about the case.

Case presenter 

This is an NMC lawyer who will present the case at a hearing.

Caution order

This cautions a nurse or midwife but does not prevent them from practising. There will be a formal record of the caution on the NMC’s register. The panel will make a decision about what length the caution order will be, with the maximum duration being five years.

Charges

Allegations about the nurse or midwife by the NMC.

The Code 

This is the Code that we set for nurses and midwives to follow and uphold in order to maintain their registration with us. If a nurse of midwife breaches the Code we can investigate if they are fit to practise.


Conditions of practice 

Our panels can set restrictions on how a nurse or midwife carries out their job until we are satisfied that they have learned from previous errors and can practice safely.

Sometimes, we can agree a sanction with a nurse or midwife if they admit the allegations against them. This means we will not need to hold a full hearing. We will always contact the people who have raised the concerns with us to seek their views before agreeing the sanction. Find out more about this process.

Cross examination

The first person who will ask you questions in the hearing room will be the case presenter for the NMC. They’ll ask about what happened and you should answer truthfully, to the best of your ability. The questions will be based on the content of the witness statement you gave to us. The case presenter may also refer you to other documents, known as exhibits.

The nurse or midwife or their representative, if present, will then have the chance to ask you some questions. This is so they can test your evidence and make sure that your account is accurate, to ensure the hearing is fair.

Their questions may focus on the parts of your evidence that they don’t accept. This is known as cross examination. We know that this can be very challenging and may be a cause for concern before a hearing. The Chair of the panel will make sure that all questions are appropriate.

The panel members will then ask you some questions if they would like to clarify any parts of your evidence and this will help them have a better understanding of the evidence they have heard.

It’s absolutely fine to ask for questions to be repeated or to say if you don’t understand a question. If you don’t recall , or are unsure, it’s fine to let the panel know this.

Determination

The panel produces a written decision at the end of each stage of the hearing. This is called a determination.

Evidence

The panel will hear evidence from witnesses who attend the hearing and will also read documents. This is part of evidence it will consider. The nurse or midwife may choose to bring witnesses with them to support their case. The nurse or midwife may also give evidence to the panel themselves.

Facts, impairment, and sanction stages

The panel will initially consider the charges and the evidence set out by the case presenter, along with the nurse or midwife’s response to the charges. The panel will then decide on the facts of the case.

If the panel finds any of the facts proved, it will go on to consider whether the nurse or midwife’s fitness to practise is impaired, that is, whether the nurse or midwife is fit to carry out their duties.

If the panel finds that the nurse or midwife’s fitness to practise is impaired, it will go on to consider what sanction, if any, it should put it place.

Fitness to Practise Committee 

If a case is sent for a hearing then the people who make the decision are known as panel members. These are independent people who are appointed to the Fitness to Practise Committee

Impairment

We say that someone is impaired if we don’t believe they are currently fit to practise. There are different categories under which we can find someone to be impaired, such as misconduct, lack of competence or health.

Interim order

If we think a nurse or midwife is a risk to the public, or themselves, during our investigation we will ask for an interim order. A panel can decide to temporarily restrict a nurse or midwife’s practice, by applying for an interim conditions of practice order. Or if they think the risk is serious, they will stop them from practising until the investigation finishes. This is known as an interim suspension order.

Legal assessor

You'll see a legal assessor if you attend one of our hearings.  A legal assessor is a qualified lawyer whose role is to advise the decision makers on the correct legal process, but who doesn't get involved in the decision making.

No case to answer 

This is when the Case Examiners may decide that the case does not need to be sent to a hearing, and instead close the case.

Panel member  

Panel members are the decision makers at a hearing. They will hear the evidence and decide whether or not to restrict or stop the nurse or midwife practising.

Registrant

You may hear the nurse of midwife called the registrant during a hearing.

Sanction

A restriction a panel puts on someone’s registration. This can range from a caution order to removal from the register.

Striking off order

This will remove the nurse or midwife’s name from our register, meaning that they can’t practise as a nurse or midwife in the UK. A nurse or midwife can apply to be put back on the register, known as restoration, after a period of five years. This application will be considered by a panel.

Substantive order review 

If a panel suspends a nurse or midwife, or puts restrictions on their practice, this will be for a set amount of time. Before this time is up a new panel must decide if the nurse or midwife has addressed their failings. They can decide to let the nurse or midwife return to practice, or extend or increase the sanction.

Suspension order 

A panel may decide the best way to protect the public is to stop the nurse or midwife from practising for a period of time (up to 12 months). Before the time is up we may review the order to see whether it needs to continue.

Voluntary removal

If a nurse or midwife admits their practice is impaired, they may wish to be permanently removed from our register without the need for a full hearing. This is called voluntary removal.