NURSES suspended for years while their professional body investigates allegations of misconduct against them have won significant legal victories.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council has lost out in two cases at the English High Court due to internal delays in arranging hearings.
The cases signal a reversal of the previous court practice. could spark legal challenges to “interim restrictions”, which often prevent the nurses from working while the NMC looks into the cases.
In the latest case, the NMC requested an additional period of three months to investigate a nurse they originally suspended from practice in January 2013, who was accused of failing to meet professional competency requirements in her training.
But the High Court rules there was no evidence of any risk to the public, and there had been undue delay by the NMC in progressing the case to a final hearing.
In January the NMC, which regulates 670,000 nurses and midwives, was criticised by MPs for failing to clear a backlog of “fitness to practice” cases. Last year its leadership was changed and it was given extra Government funding, but the Commons health select committee found that more than 400 cases were still unresolved more than two years after they started.
In another High Court case in June last year, a judge said the delays faced by two nurses in a case that lasted more than 10 years were “disgraceful” and “inexcusable”, and dismissed the action. Mr Justice Leggatt said: "A decade after this misconceived and mismanaged case was brought against the registrants, their names are clear."
Over a 12-month period between 2012 and 2013, only 68% of NMC investigations were completed in less than a year and just 39% of adjudications were made within a further six months.
In another case from 2012, a nurse with more than 30 years’ experience complained to the High Court that she had been prevented from working for almost five years after allegations were made about record-keeping. The nurse told the court she found it impossible to obtain employment due to conditions imposed on her practice by the NMC on an interim basis pending a full hearing. But the Judge allowed the NMC a further nine months to investigate.
Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar, said: "We have set ourselves a challenging business plan for 2014-15 and we are confident that we are on the right track."
The Glasgow Law Practice advises registrants on NMC proceedings, and has represented them at hearings in Edinburgh and elsewhere. Contact email@example.com for advice.
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