NMC strengthens decision making guidance on concerns outside professional practice

Published on 27 February 2024

We have strengthened our guidance for NMC decision makers on concerns arising outside professional practice, including sexual misconduct, domestic abuse and discrimination, because we recognise these behaviours can have a profound and long-lasting impact on people.

All nurses, midwives and nursing associates have the right to a private and family life. However, we sometimes receive concerns about behaviour outside professional practice. This can raise questions about a professional's ability to uphold the Code, especially where concerns relate to sexual misconduct, domestic abuse or discrimination.

As part of our work to protect the public, we continually review all our decision-making guidance for fitness to practise. We’ve updated it to make some important principles clear.

  • Sexual misconduct, domestic abuse, and the neglect or abuse of children or vulnerable adults are behaviours that are likely to impair a professional’s fitness to practise.
  • When they occur outside professional practice, these behaviours may both affect public confidence in the nursing and midwifery professions and also indicate deep-seated attitudinal issues capable of placing people using services at risk of harm. Professionals who behave in these ways are at risk of being removed from the register.
  • There may be circumstances where we need to investigate allegations the police have decided not to pursue, for example, where the allegation suggests a potential risk to people receiving care or it is serious enough to damage public confidence in the professions. Our decision-making will always be based on a careful assessment of the evidence available to us, so that we can treat everyone involved fairly and deliver on our primary purpose of protecting the public.
  • Our decision makers will refer to the Crown Prosecution Service guidance on common myths and stereotypes around rape and sexual offences.

We will deliver training for our decision makers about the behaviours covered in the guidance, their impact on people, and why we take them seriously.

This work follows engagement with key partners, including members of the public, professionals, the four Chief Nursing Officers, and abuse support organisations.

Matthew McClelland, Executive Director of Strategy and Insight at the NMC, said:

“There is absolutely no place for sexual misconduct, domestic abuse, or neglect or abuse of any kind in society, including in health and care.

“Our updated guidance makes clear that we treat concerns of this nature extremely seriously. Whether they occur within or outside of a professional setting, we will always look into this type of allegation carefully and consider taking the strongest possible action if needed for public safety and public confidence in the professions.”

Further information

This work follows previous updates we made to our guidance which strengthen how we handle fitness to practise concerns around discrimination.

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