the FtP process – step 3 of 7
Navigating FtP: Will they investigate?
Many FtP cases are rejected at the screening stage or found to have “no case to answer”, and conclude at Case Examiner stage. As only 10% of cases proceed to a full hearing, this means that a small but significant number of cases take longer than 15 months to complete the Case Examiner stage without ever proceeding to an FtP hearing. In our experience, it generally takes 15 months for a case to reach the conclusion of the Case Examiner stage.
At the time of writing (2021), the pandemic has caused a backlog of cases and it is unclear when these will be processed and how soon the 80% target will be reached again. Time frames are very fluid with the NMC so it is difficult to get strict criteria around this. However, this chart gives some idea of the expectation of timeframes for each stage of the process.
The NMC has produced this flow sheet for those who refer nurses and midwives to them – the timeline is still applicable for you and although may vary gives you an idea of how the process will run.
The Nurses Defense Service has also produced further helpful information:
We have already talked about the screening stage in previous sections.
If the referral does satisfy the threshold to proceed and once the necessity of an Interim Order has been decided, it will go on to the investigation stage. The NMC state that the investigation stage should be completed within less than 25 weeks of the decision made to investigate. ( not of when the referral was received )
If your case goes to a full hearing, this will usually take around a year to schedule and prepare from the end of the Case Examiner stage.
It is not uncommon for the core incidents of interest to the NMC, being considered at hearings between approximately 3, and up to 5 years after they happened.
This video explains how investigations are carried out. You can also see the NMC website for details.
How are concerns investigated?
This will usually begin with the NMC seeking documentary evidence of the concerns and speaking to those involved.
The NMC continually assesses the information and whether it affects the level of risk and the investigative steps that are required as a result. The nurse involved is always asked to provide information at the beginning and end of the investigation.
Investigators also speak to the person who has raised the concerns, employers and witnesses to ensure they have a full picture of what happened and how serious it was. If people are asked to provide an official witness statement, this will be sent on to the registrant involved.
If the issue involves a nurse’s health, the NMC will contact their GP and may ask the nurse to have a medical examination.
If the concern focuses on a nurse’s English language skills, they are likely to be asked to take a written language test.
If investigators are unable to obtain the information required or witnesses will not help, it is likely the case examiners will conclude that the concerns cannot be proved.
Once an investigation is complete, a case examiner will decide what will happen to the case. They don’t decide whether the case is proven, if the incidents happened, or if the nurse is fit to practise. But they do decide whether there is a case to answer and if there’s a realistic possibility that the FtP committee would decide the incidents in the case did happen, or that the issues, such as a health condition, are still present and that the nurse or midwife’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.
If they decide there is no case to answer, they can still offer the registrant advice or give them a warning. If they decide there is a case, they can resolve it by recommending undertakings with the nurse, which can include restrictions on practice and rehabilitative steps.
Alternatively, they can refer the case to the FtP committee – here A case examiner ( lawyer) for the NMC explains more.