The NMC’s first stage in their fitness to practise process is screening complaints. This is necessary for the NMC to decide whether they can investigate the complaint or not. The screening process is also important for the NMC to undertake an initial risk assessment of the complaint to determine if it meets the threshold for consideration of any interim steps.
The NMC’s approach to screening can be divided into four stages:
1. Determining the seriousness of the concern
You can read more about “How the NMC determines “seriousness” in fitness to practise”
2. NMC’s formal requirements
This is a technical matter, but for information, the NMC requires the following for all complaints made to it:
3. Credible evidence
If the NMC’s initial assessment of a complaint leads it to believe that concerns are sufficiently serious to be treated as an allegation of impaired fitness to practise or of incorrect or fraudulent entry, it will move on to consider the evidence to assess if there’s enough evidence that's likely to be credible and admissible.
There is no exhaustive list of evidence the NMC will consider but it gives the following as “Examples of useful supporting evidence”:
It is worth noting that the NMC will not, generally, refer a case to our investigations team for a full investigation if the employer has not finished theirs yet.
4. Evidence of remediation
Remediation must not be underestimated. Steps that have been taken by a nurse, midwife or nursing associate to alleviate any concerns about their fitness to practise concerns since an incident can carry a lot of weight.
The NMC’s own guidance states in cases where all the formal requirements are met, it will “gather information to determine whether the nurse, midwife or nursing associate has taken appropriate steps to mitigate the risks presented by the case.”
In the same guidance, the NMC says it expects a nurse, midwife or nursing associate to have reflected on the issues raised in the case and there is evidence of relevant retraining or learning.
Where there is clear evidence of the above, the NMC may decide that they no longer present any risk to patients or members of the public.
However, risk to patients or members of the public is only one aspect of the NMC’s considerations. Promotion and maintaining public confidence in nursing is another aspect to consider and for this remediation in itself is not sufficient. Notwithstanding an assessment of public or patient risk, if the NMC thinks an allegation might damage public confidence in nursing, it could still act by Fitness to Practise Committee.
The value of expert legal advice and representation cannot be underestimated when it comes to evidence and advice on remediation. A nurse, midwife or nursing associate will be informed of a complaint/allegation made about them. Evidence clearly shows much better outcomes for a nurse, midwife or nursing associates who engage with expert legal representation. I have significant experience in advising healthcare professionals on all matters relating to fitness to practise, remediation and full case management, dealing directly with regulators on behalf of nurses, midwives and nursing associates.