Are healthcare regulators softening their fitness to practise stance to support the fight against Covid-19? 

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has allowed suspended nurses to return to practice to support the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. 

It has been reported that the NMC allowed four suspended nurses to return to practice and identified 12 further cases where registrants were originally suspended on public interest grounds only, and where no risk to patient safety was found. 

The NMC said independent panels were reviewing the cases to establish whether reduced sanctions would be appropriate, to allow individuals to return to practice ‘where safe to do so’.  

NMC deputy director of professional regulation Clare Strickland is reported to have said: “As part of this, we have been able to identify a small number of cases where a sanction was imposed on public interest grounds only, and where no risk to patient safety was found. 

“In some of these cases, our independent panels have carried out a review of the original sanction – alongside additional information provided by the registrant or their representative – to consider whether a new sanction is now appropriate so that individuals can return to practice where it is safe to do so. 

“As always, panel decisions will be reviewed by our usual quality assurance process.”

Contextual factors in Fitness to Practise

The NMC has been leading the debate about the importance of context in fitness to practise investigations and sanctions. For example:

  1. Contextual factors in Fitness to Practise
  2. Context of incidents in NMC fitness to practise proceedings
  3. NMC consider “context” in fitness to practise cases

Although they have led the debate, all the other healthcare regulators have supported a joint statement on how they will regulate during the current pandemic. The joint statement supports the importance of context in fitness to practise in so far as it relates to clinical decisions and judgements in the context of Covid-19.

The NMC’s approach is the practical outworking of the commitment to understand the context of the issues facing healthcare at the moment. I am not commenting on whether this approach is the right one or not, but making the point that healthcare regulators appear to be standing by its commitment.

Clearly decisions concerning prematurely terminating fitness to practise sanctions should be taken with great care to ensure public safety is not adversely affected as a consequence.

If you are subject to any fitness to practise investigation or sanction, please contact me for a free assessment of your case.


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