Data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has revealed an increase in the number of Interim Order extension applications made by the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC).
NMC Watch, a group set up to ‘support nurses and midwives and other healthcare professionals going through Fitness to Practice investigations’, recently highlighted the increase in High Court applications for Interim Order extensions made by the NMC.
According to data it obtained through the FOIA, in the last 12 months, the NMC made 649 High Court applications (in England Wales and Ireland) and 81 to the Court of Session in Scotland. This is up from 529 to the High Court and 66 in Scotland for the previous year.
Interim Orders temporarily suspend or restrict a medical practitioner’s practice while their case is being investigated. Interim order cases may include, for example, cases of serious lack of competence or poor clinical practice, serious convictions or imprisonment, and serious illness. Healthcare professionals have a right to respond to applications for interim order extensions, although many do not.
The NMC has been criticised for the number of extension applications it has, and is, making. NMC Watch also recently reported such a case in which High Court judge, Philip Mott KC commented:
“I have been sitting in this job long enough to see innumerable additional requests by the NMC to ask for extra time. It happens far too often in my view … there’s major interference with someone’s life”.
Cathryn Watters (RGN), Founder NMC Watch, said:
“Nurses or midwives are impotent to challenge this as it is seen as a “normal” part of the process and can not be prevented due to the workload the NMC have. We see this as not acceptable. Registrants are left in limbo whilst investigations are completed, often unable to work and have no ability to sustain their professional or personal standing whilst they wait for the NMC.
“We did a survey of our group that got a no case to answer outcome – 25% of them did not return to work and a further 25% did not return to the same level as they were before.
“We feel there needs to be more accountability when cases do not complete their investigation in the 18 months period of an Interim Order.”