We often receive referrals alleging that a nurse or midwife has a health condition. We will not normally need to intervene in a nurse or midwife’s practice due to ill health unless there is a risk of harm to patients or a related risk to public confidence in the profession.
There are very few circumstances where we decide that a nurse or midwife who has (or used to have) a health condition, but is currently able to practise safely without any risk to patients, is impaired on the basis of public confidence in the professions alone.
A nurse or midwife may have a disability or long-term health condition but be able to practise with or without adjustments to support their practice. Equally, a nurse or midwife may be signed off as ‘unfit for work’ due to ill health, but this does not necessarily mean their fitness to practise is currently impaired.
Cases of ill-health are likely to be better managed with the support of an employer to safely reduce any risk to patients, and not require a regulatory investigation where:
- the nurse or midwife has demonstrated good insight into the extent and effect of their condition
- the nurse or midwife is taking appropriate steps to access treatment and is following any advice from the health professionals treating them
- occupational health (where available) is providing support through the employer
- the nurse or midwife is managing his or her practice appropriately, for example by taking sickness absence.
Referrals which indicate long-term, untreated (or unsuccessfully treated), or unacknowledged physical or mental health conditions will be of particular concern if they suggest a risk to public protection.
Even where a health condition appears to be well managed, the nurse or midwife may be at risk of relapse, which could affect their ability to practise safely. In such cases some form of restriction may be required to make sure there is no risk of harm to patients or others.
When we assess whether concern about a nurse or midwife's health is serious enough to become involved in their practice, we will consider the nature of the concern and whether there is sufficient evidence to justify seeking further information from third parties, such as the nurse or midwife’s GP or occupational health department. We will balance the nurse or midwife’s right to privacy with our overarching duty to protect the public.
The guidance in our library, needs to be read alongside our NMC Guidance during the Covid-19 emergency period. We have new rules that are in force during the period of the coronavirus emergency that are relevant to how it applies.
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