NMC Council to consider future use of new powers
Published on 17 March 2021
Find out more about the proposals
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were given new powers by the Department of Health and Social Care that meant we were able to make some urgent changes to ensure our core regulatory work could continue during the emergency period. These powers have since been made available to us on a permanent basis.
At its next meeting on Wednesday 24 March, our Council will consider how we will use these powers both during the emergency and once it is over, following feedback from our recent public consultation.
Those responding to the consultation highlighted a number of benefits to the new rules. These included time savings for attendees, and reduced travel and accommodation costs by holding hearings virtually. The changes also resulted in speed and cost benefits from communicating by email rather than post; and fairness in allowing revalidation extensions in exceptional circumstances.
The recommendations we are taking to Council will enable us to retain the flexibility and benefits we've gained across a number of key areas of work. We recommend that:
- We continue to use the powers after 31 March 2021 and once the emergency is over.
- We do not have fitness to practise panels without a nurse, midwife or nursing associate outside of a national emergency. We will only use panels of two members rather than three in exceptional circumstances, and only with the agreement of both the professional and the NMC. For example, if a non-registrant member were to fall ill during a hearing and adjourning would cause a substantial delay.
- We grant limited extensions to revalidation application dates in exceptional circumstances. We will do this in line with the way we worked prior to the emergency and in line with our 'How to revalidate' guidance.
- We will amend our guidance to reflect any changes we have proposed. At the end of the emergency period we will review our guidance again and will clearly set out how we propose to use our powers.
We also propose the following approach to how we will operate:
- We will hold hearings virtually where it is fair and practical to do so. The consultation provided us with feedback on where this might not be fair or practical, for example where people may not have access to the right technology or to a suitable environment.
- We will offer audio-only access to our virtual hearings, with a video stream available from our hearings centre. Video access from home will only be possible if required as a reasonable adjustment.
- We will continue to send notices by email where we have an approved email address. In response to consultation feedback, we will require a read receipt when using email. If we don't receive a receipt or other confirmation the email has been received we will follow this up in other ways such as a phone call.
The full details and proposals can be viewed in our Council papers.
Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar, said:
"In order to continue to regulate effectively throughout the pandemic we had to adapt how we worked.
"Over the last year, we responded quickly by introducing new emergency arrangements. Our experience has shown that a number of the changes, such as allowing virtual hearings and revalidation extensions, will have lasting benefits beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It would not be appropriate to use these new powers indefinitely without a proper public consultation and I am grateful to everyone who took the time to share their views with us.
"Following the feedback we’ve received, our council will now consider proposals to use these additional flexibilities beyond the pandemic emergency to help us regulate effectively and continue to support our professionals and keep the public safe."
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