Deciding if a hearing or meeting is appropriate

Reference: HEA-11c

Last Updated 28/07/2017

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Final hearings

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Once the case examiners have sent a case to be dealt with by either the Investigating or Fitness to Practise Committee (‘the Committee’), we will write to the nurse or midwife and give them 28 days to tell us if they would like their case to be dealt with at a hearing or a meeting.1 If a nurse or midwife requests a hearing, we will always arrange a hearing as it is their right.2

If the nurse or midwife requests a meeting, or does not tell us of a preference, we have to consider whether it is more appropriate to have the case dealt with at a hearing or a meeting. This is because holding a meeting will not always be suitable, even if the nurse or midwife requests a meeting.

In this instance, a member of our legal team will review the case and make a recommendation as to whether a hearing or meeting should be arranged. The lawyer will provide reasoning for their recommendation, considering the following factors.

  • Whether the nurse or midwife has made any admissions to the allegations. For example, where all allegations are admitted and the nurse or midwife does not dispute any of the witness’ evidence, the case may be suitable to be dealt with at a meeting.
  • If the nurse or midwife has engaged with us through the proceedings, and to what extent. If the nurse or midwife has not been in contact with us through the proceedings or does not want to participate, holding a hearing to allow them to attend may not serve any purpose.
  • How complex the case is, including the nature of the allegations and the size of the bundle of evidence. If the evidence is complex or not easily understood, it may be beneficial to hold a hearing where witnesses can answer further questions or provide explanation on matters.
  • Whether or not the assistance of a case presenter is needed in light of the complexity. If the evidence is complex it might need a case presenter to explain it to the panel.
  • Whether or not the case raises a public interest issue that requires a hearing. There may be a public interest in holding a hearing in order to maintain public confidence in the professions and us as a regulator.
  • Whether the interests of the nurse or midwife require the matter to be dealt with at a hearing. There may be issues in the case that mean a hearing should be held to make sure the process is fair to the nurse or midwife.

The lawyer’s recommendation is put before a panel of the Committee who will consider it at a meeting and make a final decision. This meeting is held in private and the nurse or midwife will not be able to attend. The panel will consider the same factors as the lawyer in deciding whether a fitness to practise allegation is better dealt with at a hearing or a meeting.

Substantive Order Reviews

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Our Rules state that when substantive orders are reviewed by a Committee we have to give the nurse or midwife the opportunity to attend in person.3

When we review cases, to see if they are suitable to be heard at a meeting, we consider the following criteria.

  • Whether the case was considered at a meeting at the substantive stage. Where a panel has decided (considering the factors given in the above section) that it is suitable for the consideration of allegations to be done at a meeting, future reviews of an order may also be suitable to be dealt with at a meeting.
  • If the case has previously been heard at a hearing, whether the nurse or midwife attended. If we held a hearing previously, but the nurse or midwife did not attend, it may indicate that they will not attend a future hearing.
  • Whether the nurse or midwife has been in contact since the substantive hearing. If there has been no communication from the nurse or midwife, or alternatively if they have been in contact and told us they do not want to engage with further proceedings or attend a hearing, it may be suitable to hold the review at a meeting.
  • Whether there are any complexities in the presentation of the review. If there are complex matters that might need a case presenter to assist, or a witness to provide explanation we may hold a hearing.

Where we consider it is suitable for the substantive order to be reviewed at a meeting, we will write to the nurse or midwife to inform them of this. We request that the nurse or midwife respond within fourteen days to tell us if they object to the case being dealt with at a meeting. If it is objected to, we will arrange a hearing.

If we receive no objection, we will send the nurse or midwife a notice of the meeting. If the nurse or midwife contacts us before the meeting date, we will rearrange the substantive order to be dealt with at a hearing.

Alternatively, the panel at the substantive order review meeting may consider that it would be helpful to hold a hearing and give the nurse or midwife the opportunity to attend. If the panel directs this, we will arrange a hearing date and send the nurse or midwife a new notice of hearing.

Interim orders 

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We will always hold an initial interim order consideration at a hearing and provide the nurse or midwife the opportunity to attend.

At any subsequent reviews of interim orders, we will consider whether there has been a material change in circumstance that requires a hearing. Where there has been no material change in the risk, we will arrange for the review to be dealt with at a meeting, and will inform the nurse or midwife of the outcome. Usually this is suitable where the nurse or midwife has an interim suspension order imposed, and we have not received any information that the risk has reduced.

If the nurse or midwife would like their interim order reviewed at a hearing, they can inform our staff who will arrange a hearing.

Restoration 

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Although our Rules allow restoration considerations to be dealt with at a meeting, due to the nature of the matter (such as an application to be restored to the register) it will normally be necessary to hold these at a hearing so that the applicant can attend and present evidence to the panel in person.

1 Rule 9(2)(d) The Rules
2 Rule 10(2) The Rules
3 Art 30 (1) and (9) Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001