Deciding to hear matters in private

Reference: HEA-14a

Last Updated 28/07/2017

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Hearings should generally be conducted in private where the allegation relates solely to a nurse or midwife’s mental or physical health, or a health allegation that refers to incidents a nurse or midwife is responsible for. An exception to this is when the panel is satisfied that the public interest, or the interests of any third party, outweighs the need to protect the privacy or confidentiality of the nurse or midwife, meaning that all or part of the hearing should be held in public.1 The circumstances where it is appropriate to hear private health information in public session will be extremely rare.

A panel can hear matters in private when it is satisfied that it is reasonable and proportionate to do so, and it is justified in the interests of any party, third party, or the public.2 Either party to the proceedings can apply for part or all of the case to be heard in private. A panel can also raise the issue and then make a decision.

Before making a decision, the panel should give the parties to the allegation and any interested third party an opportunity to make representations about sitting in private, and then consider the advice of the legal assessor.

A decision to sit in private may relate to all or part of a hearing. Given that transparency and open justice will normally require that (non-health-related) hearings are held in public, panels should try to hold as much of a hearing in open session as practical, even if it is necessary to switch between public and private session.

In reaching this decision, a panel should also consider if it would be more appropriate and proportionate to take other steps such as redacting documents, anonymising information or concealing the identity of a person referred to in the allegation.

The application can also be heard in private if it is reasonable to do so. However, the panel should ask for representations from all interested parties before the full application is heard in private. Any decision on an application to hear matters in private is recorded in writing and given to the parties.

1 Rule 19(2) (a) and (b) of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (Fitness to Practise) Rules 2004
2 Rule 19(3) (a) and (b) of the Rules