Concerns, complaints and referrals during the Covid-19 pandemic
We've outlined the changes that may affect patients, families and members of the public during Covid-19.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented level of demand on the nurses, midwives and nursing associates that we regulate. Therefore, at the start of the pandemic, we reduced contact with healthcare professionals to make sure they could concentrate on caring for people affected by Covid-19.
We have, however, continued contacting frontline healthcare professionals where it's essential for immediate risk management. As long as the current situation does not change, and the country continues to recover from the pandemic, we plan to increase our contact with healthcare professionals gradually.
We're mindful that individuals working in health and social care, and the organisations they work for, are at different stages of readiness to engage with our fitness to practise process. We will be building our understanding of how ready people are to engage and will be mindful of that in our planning.
Raising a concern about a nurse, midwife or nursing associate
If you have a concern about a nurse, midwife or nursing associate, in most cases, it's often a good idea to start by getting in touch with their employer first.
We know that some NHS Trusts have paused their complaints process right now while they focus on responding to Covid-19. As a result, you might experience a delay in getting your concerns addressed.
However, we'd still encourage you to continue with local resolution processes. This is because unless we need to take immediate action to protect the public in response to your concern, we won't be able to assess your concern any sooner through our own processes.
We've changed our approach to getting information from employers right now. We are only asking them for information if it is essential for immediate risk management. This means that we may not be able to progress some cases for the time being.
Making a referral about a nurse, midwife or nursing associate on our registers
Making a referral about a nurse, midwife or nursing associate will be different if they're on the Covid-19 temporary register or the permanent register. You can now search both our Covid-19 temporary and permenant registers.
Find out more about how to raise a concern about a registrant on our temporary register.
If you do have a concern where we might need to take immediate action, please do contact us as soon as you can.
Examples of concerns we'd want to know about immediately include:
- serious or repeated mistakes in patient care
- violence, sexual assault or indecency
- abuse of professional position, e.g. an improper sexual relationship with a patient
Our Emotional Support Telephone Line is still open 24/7. It is available for patients, families and anyone else involved in a fitness to practise case. It's free, confidential and non-judgemental service that's independent of us. You can call them on 0300 303 3731 or visit Victim Support
We will continue to open a case for every referral receive. But it’s important to stress that unless the registrant poses an immediate risk to patients, themselves or the reputation of the nursing profession, we are unlikely to take any action at the current time.
When we receive a referral from a member of the public, we undertake an immediate risk assessment where we decide if we need to take urgent action.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we'll continue to process high-risk cases where we've identified the need to restrict a registrants practice. This means that we're only contacting healthcare professionals in a small number of high-risk cases.
In some cases, we won't contact the registrant to tell them we've received a referral about them. This is so they can stay focused on their vital work during the pandemic.
If we identify a registrant that poses a high risk, we'll need to take steps to restrict their practice. In these situations, we'll likely need more information from you to do this. We would be grateful if you could provide us with this information as soon as you can.
However, we do understand that this might take longer than usual, so we'll only ask for information if it's necessary. If there is someone else who can process our request for you, we're very happy to talk to them instead.
Cases opened before the Covid-19 pandemic
If you've already referred a case to us, some of these cases won't progress during the crisis. If we decide to pause our work on your case, we'll let you know and keep you updated, and we'll proceed with our information gathering as soon as we are able.
We understand this will cause concern for some people, and this isn't a decision we've taken lightly. But we ask for your patience and understanding as we work with the Government and healthcare professionals to provide them with the space they need to work effectively over the coming weeks.
Attending a hearing during the Covid-19 pandemic
While our offices and hearings centres have been closed, we’ve been holding some fitness to practise hearings virtually via video and audio conference.
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.
Members of the public are usually allowed to observe certain hearings, but so far during the pandemic there has generally been no public access. We will be resuming access for observers and will share information on how to request access to a virtual or physical hearing as a member of the public shortly.
If you're involved in a case, we'll let you know the outcome of the hearing and share information with you in line with our information handling guidance. We'll also continue to publish hearing outcomes in line with our publication guidance.
We're currently looking into whether other forms of support can be made available. We will also continue to offer our Emotional Support Line, which you can contact by telephoning 0300 303 3731.