NMC Online, HEI Portal & CCPS Portal will be unavailable from 19:30 - 22:30 on Friday 6 December while we carry out essential maintenance. Our Overseas Portal will be unavailable from 07:15 - 08:30 on Saturday 7 December. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

X

Hearing fitness to practise allegations together

Reference: CMT-1

Last Updated 12/10/2018

Overview

Back to top

After case examiners have decided that there is a case to answer and referred the case or cases to the Fitness to Practise Committee, there are some circumstances where it is appropriate to deal with more than one allegation at the same hearing. 

This could be where more than one case about a nurse or midwife has been referred to us, or where two or more nurses or midwives are facing allegations about the same or a connected incident.

Allegations against more than one nurse or midwife

Back to top

A panel of the Fitness to Practise Committee (‘panel’) may consider an allegation against two or more nurses or midwives at the same hearing where the allegations arise out of the same circumstances, or where it decides a joint hearing is necessary.

Before making a decision the panel must consider the advice of the legal assessor. The panel cannot hear allegations together if a joint hearing would make the proceedings unfair.1

Different allegations against the same nurse or midwife

Back to top

If we receive more than one referral for a nurse or midwife at the same time, and the referrals relate to different allegations of impaired fitness to practise, we will investigate the allegations and manage the matter as one case.

If we do not receive the referrals at the same time, we may have opened two or more cases against the same nurse or midwife. In this instance we will we will consider whether it is better to deal with the cases together, which may depend on where in the process each case is.

If allegations relate to a criminal caution or conviction, this must be heard after any allegation of misconduct has been decided2, unless the matter requires the panel to hear evidence about the conviction/caution to understand the misconduct.

For instance, a misconduct allegation that the nurse or midwife failed to disclose a conviction to their employer. The panel may also hear evidence about a conviction where it is relevant and fair to include it as evidence of fact or bad character.

New allegations

Back to top

Sometimes a new allegation is made against a nurse or midwife that is similar to, or founded on the same facts, as an allegation we have already received.  If this happens, both allegations can be considered at the same hearing if the original allegation has not yet been heard.3 

In these cases, we will tell the nurse or midwife about the new allegation and our intention to deal with them at the same hearing. We will give them the opportunity to respond within 28 days, or a different timeframe we agree.4 

How do we make the decision to join allegations?

Back to top

Considering allegations together allows us to be a more effective regulator because allows panels to consider the wider context of allegations.

Holding only one hearing or meeting reduces the time cases take, and helps witnesses by not requiring them to attend multiple hearings.

However, in making the decision, we’ll always consider any risk of unfairness that may arise from hearing allegations together.

If we consider that allegations need to be dealt with together, we’ll tell the nurses or midwives, and give them the chance to object to the allegations being dealt with together.

Where we want to join together allegations against more than one nurse or midwife, we will give them information about the other person’s case, such as the charge and a list of witness statements or exhibits. This is to help them understand why we say the allegations should be heard together.

If nobody objects to us joining the cases, we’ll join them, and arrange a joint hearing. If one of the nurses or midwives does tell us they don’t want their case joined with another case we’ll arrange for a preliminary meeting so that a Chair can make the final decision on whether the matters should be joined.

The joint hearing

Back to top

In a case where allegations against two or more nurses or midwives are to be heard at the same hearing, we’ll consider what material we’ve received from one nurse or midwife needs to be disclosed to the other, applying our test for disclosure of unused material.

Panels should manage cases in a way that is fair for everyone.5 Bearing that in mind, panels should consider how any risk of unfairness can be managed in a hearing.

For example, joining cases may lead to a hearing becoming unduly long and complicated, which may affect the nurse or midwife’s ability to attend, or be represented throughout the hearing.

Panels should consider the evidence against each nurse or midwife separately, even though the cases may be heard together. If a panel hears evidence about one nurse or midwife that is inadmissible and prejudicial against the other, it will exercise its judgment as a professional panel and disregard any irrelevant material.

It will decide the case fairly on the evidence before it, having been advised by the legal assessor of the proper legal approach.6 In rare circumstances it may not be possible to disregard the irrelevant material, due to the exceptionally prejudicial nature of it, in which case the panel should consider whether it’s appropriate to continue.7

New allegations about a nurse or midwife already subject to a fitness to practise sanction

Back to top

We may receive a referral of a new allegation while a nurse or midwife is subject to a substantive order (other than a striking off order). If this happens we’ll use our guidance to decide whether a panel should be made aware of the new allegation, as part of the review of the substantive order, or whether we should treat the information as a new referral.

1 Rule 29(1) of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (Fitness to Practise) Rules 2004 ('the Rules')
2 Rule 29(2) of the Rules
3 Rule 29(3) of the Rules
4 Rule 29(4) of the Rules
5 R (O’Brien) v General Medical Council [2006] EWHC 51 (Admin)
6 R (on the application of Mahfouz) v General Medical Council [2004] EWCA Civ 233, White and Turner v Nursing and Midwifery Council [2014] EWHC 520 (Admin)
7 See paragraph 28 of R (on the application of Mahfouz) v General Medical Council [2004] EWCA Civ 233

Want to download and print whole sections of this FtP library? Visit the downloads page.