A preliminary meeting is vital to ensure the smooth running of the hearing and to avoid delays because of process. Often delays happen because there is some disagreement over evidence, timings and order of witnesses and admissibility of evidence. This should all be agreed at the prelim meeting so that basically when the first day of the hearings comes it starts efficiently and continues effectively without unnecessary delay.
- This should occur at a pre hearing conference meeting ideally 2 weeks before the scheduled meeting at a mutually convenient time. ( Agreed with Clare Strickland, Deputy Director of Fitness to Practice )
- Those attending will be the case presenter (NMC lawyer), the registrant and any legal representative, secretary and Legal assessor
- Full transcripts will be taken of this meeting and should be made available to the registrant on completion of the meeting.
The reason for the above is to:
- Ensure all evidence presented by the NMC is available to the registrant and/or representation
- Agree said bundle and if any redactions are appropriate.
- Ensure the NMC has all evidence to present to the panel on Day 1 of the hearing, in its completeness and up to date form.
- Ensure any witnesses are agreed including whether any that have given written evidence need to attend to also give live evidence.
- Present any detail to the legal assessor that may be controversial or give rise to any safeguarding.
If a witness ( including the registrant ) is seen as vulnerable they can still give evidence but may be dealt with under “special measures”. This is done to safeguard the witness against the proceedings causing unnecessary harm.
In a court of law or if the hearing was in person this would be done by using “screens” but obviously this is difficult when hearings are held on line.
Therefore the case presenter will put a case to the panel in submissions to give reasoning why the hearing should a) be held in private and/or b) dealt with under special measures.
The registrant or representative for the registrant will then be given the opportunity to give further submissions to either agree or disagree
NMC guidance is available here: https://www.nmc.org.uk/ftp-library/case-management/preliminary-meetings/
It is ultimately up to the panel to decide if the case will be heard in private and if any witnesses are to be treated as “vulnerable”
If you have been denied a preliminary meeting or were not offered one and are now finding out after the hearing this could have been available please submit a complaint via firstname.lastname@example.org