Decision makers should always consider the full circumstances of the case in the round when assessing whether or not the concerns in the case can be addressed. This is true even where the incident itself is the sort of conduct which would normally be considered to be particularly serious.
The first question is whether the concerns can be addressed. That is, are there steps that the nurse, midwife or nursing associate can take to address the identified problem in their practice?
It can often be very difficult, if not impossible, to put right the outcome of the clinical failing or behaviour, especially where it has resulted in harm to a patient. However, rather than focusing on whether the outcome can be put right, decision makers should assess the conduct that led to the outcome, and consider whether the conduct itself, and the risks it could pose, can be addressed by taking steps, such as completing training courses or supervised practice.
Decision makers need to be aware of our role in maintaining confidence in the professions by declaring and upholding proper standards of professional conduct. Sometimes, the conduct of a particular nurse, midwife or nursing associate can fall so far short of the standards the public expect of professionals caring for them that public confidence in the nursing and midwifery professions could be undermined. In cases like this, and in cases where the behaviour suggests underlying problems with the nurse, midwife or nursing associate’s attitude, it is less likely the nurse, midwife or nursing associate will be able to address their conduct by taking steps, such as completing training courses or supervised practice.
Examples of conduct which may not be possible to address, and where steps such as training courses or supervision at work are unlikely to address the concerns include:
- criminal convictions that led to custodial sentences
- inappropriate personal or sexual relationships with patients, service users or other vulnerable people
- dishonesty, particularly if it was serious and sustained over a period of time, or directly linked to the nurse, midwife or nursing associate’s practice
- violence, neglect or abuse of patients.
Generally, issues about the safety of clinical practice are easier to address, particularly where they involve isolated incidents. Examples of such concerns include:
- medication administration errors
- poor record keeping
- failings in a discrete and easily identifiable area of clinical practice
- concerns about incidents that took place a significant period of time in the past, especially if the nurse, midwife or nursing associate has practised safely since they occurred.
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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