There is an almost Stockholm Syndrome that occurs when nurses and midwives face regulatory investigations. The NMC hold the key to our PIN, they decide whether we can work in the profession we have trained for and as such we are unable to challenge them with any force. The public must always be able to refer a practitioner to the associated regulator when harm has been caused, and they deserve to be confident that a thorough and proper investigation occurs to determine the facts. However, no good comes from inadequate investigation or investigations which only look to prove their case rather than the true facts. If the system does not have the skill to decipher quickly those cases that pose a definitive risk and those which are vexatious or misguided, then ultimately the public will be put at risk, either by the wrong practitioners being held to account, or having resources focussed on the wrong cases and those cases which are concerning actually harm do not get resolved quickly enough if at all.
Social Work England has begun some work on vexatious referrals, but the psychology behind why some people may refer maliciously takes a skilled practitioner to decipher and sympathetically process without further harm. This is a process very different to legal caselaw review or regulatory legislative legal assessment. As the regulator for the nursing and midwifery workforce, we would expect them to have the right skills in the right places and be experts in carrying out inquisitive investigations. There sadly seems to be an assumption of investigators currently, that all nurses and midwives are not to be believed if they are under investigation, the “no smoke without fire” attitude, and ultimately are not to be trusted. This is a sad state of affairs, but our regulator is responsible for setting the standards, promoting education and ensuring those on the register are eligible to be there, so perhaps some inward reflection and remediation is required by our regulator to lead by example!!
One supporter of this nurse’s crowdfunding page is an experienced educator and nurse, she has explained why she is supporting this cause:
“I am supporting this crowdfunding effort because I believe it is fundamentally wrong for the NMC to investigate a complaint made based on very little factual evidence, use their own barristers to present on behalf of an individual personal complainant, which is in effect acting as judge and jury. All without the same support being available for those under investigation
This is an unequal battle that is neither a fair or reasonable process – David vs Goliath comes to mind given the huge financial and expert resources that the NMC can call upon (which registrants fund through their annual registration fee)
I believe that the NMC need to fully overhaul their processes to ensure that there is fairness for the individual and still protect the public. I would go further and suggest that there should be an independent review of the NMC referral process to review if in fact its investigations are undertaken and used proportionately, appropriately, and only when necessary.
Sarah’s case took several years to be heard and then Sarah had to represent herself against an NMC legal team – sadly something that happens far too often. In cases whereby individuals, for whatever reason, are unable to have union representation, people should have made available to them the same resources to at least have an equal basis to put forward their case also. That is only the only way for justice to prevail for all concerned.
In addition, the time taken to get to a hearing is just outrageous causing significant stress and mental anguish to those under investigation. Then to be advised by the NMC, if you disagree with their outcome/sanctions, that any appeal will cost thousands and take years shows that there is no realist opportunity for an individual to challenge NMC decisions, clear their name, reduce any sanction or try again to prove their innocence.
NMCWatch works tirelessly to help support people in navigating such issues and are to be commended for the help they are giving to Sarah and Graeme on this. Good luck Sarah”
Maria Trewern MSC RN.