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. 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.
Since July 2020, we have gradually increased our contact with healthcare professionals. We know that we need to keep the status of the pandemic under constant review and be sensitive to local situations and the recent rise in hospital admissions in many parts of the UK. 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.
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
We often need information from healthcare organisations and professionals to help us decide the outcome of a case. At the start of the pandemic, we reduced our contact healthcare organisations to make sure they could concentrate on caring for those affected by the pandemic.
In July, we resumed contact with organisations that told us they were in a position to help us with our enquiries. We should soon be in a place to make a decision on these cases where we can contact these organisations.
Given the recent rise in hospital admissions in many parts of the UK, there may be some healthcare organisations that we are unable to contact at the moment. This may lead to delays in dealing with some referrals.
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 have started to hold some physical hearings where it is considered appropriate. Members of the public are usually allowed to observe certain hearings, but in light of the current government measures access to the public is limited.
Where hearings are conducted virtually it won't be possible for members of the public to observe those hearings in the usual way. We're able to make arrangements for audio access for those who wish to listen in to a virtual hearing. Although we might have to limit the number of observers attending our virtual hearings so that we can make sure the hearing runs smoothly.
If you want to watch a virtual hearing we will invite you to attend our hearing centre in Edinburgh or London, where this will be displayed on a screen. This will not be possible if there are travel restrictions in place.
We'll have a reduced capacity for observers because of the need to maintain social distancing. Where there are capacity constraints, the need to run hearings in our venues will be prioritised over an observer’s request to watch a hearing.
Given the limited capacity for observers, those wishing to listen in to our hearings must contast us via our website, so that we can see whether this can be accommodated. Observers must not record proceedings. The rules relating to when a hearing should be held in public and private continue to apply to virtual hearings.
Unless you live in an area which is subject to travel restrictions, you can view a physical hearing in person at one of our hearing centres. There is disabled access to all of our hearing centres.
Because of the travel restrictions currently operating across some parts of the UK, depending on where you live, it may not now be possible for you to attend one of our physical hearings at our hearing centres.
If you live in an area subject to travel restrictions, you should only attend a physical hearing in the following circumstances :
- Where you need to attend in order to support someone directly involved in the hearing (for example a nurse, midwife, nursing associate or witness). However, it will usually only be possible to allow one person to attend to support each participant
- Journalists attending a hearing to report proceedings to the public
A patient or family members who wishes to support someone directly involved in the hearing should contast us, explaining their reasons for wanting to attend, so that we can see if this can be accommodated.
Where a patient or family member wishes to observe an in person hearing, we will explore other ways of allowing the individual to observe the hearing, such as through an audio link.
You can find out more about our current restrictions by viewing the NMC guidance during the Covid-19 emergency period.
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.