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Judgement date: 22 August 2012
Don’t be so quick to dismiss conditions of practice at interim order hearings, says High Court.
A complaint was made by a female patient against the applicant, a 53 year old registered mental health nurse. As a result of the allegations, the Health Board held a Disciplinary Hearing, the outcome of which was to summarily dismiss the applicant for gross misconduct. His case was referred to the respondent Nursing and Midwifery Council (‘NMC’), who, pending a decision as to whether there was a case to answer, summoned the appellant to attend an interim orders hearing. At that hearing, the Panel stated “we are not required to weigh up evidence. All we have to be satisfied of is that, given the information in front of us, there is a prima facie case [sic] requiring consideration of an interim order”. Following the hearing, the applicant was suspended for 18 months. The applicant applied to terminate the interim order of suspension under art 31(12) of the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2011; SI 2002/253.
The applicant submitted, inter alia, that:
The court ruled:
As such, the duration of the suspension was varied, to terminate at 4pm on 20 September 2012 or at such a date as the respondent could convene a panel to consider the imposition of suitable conditions of practice.
The Courts have always made it clear that suspension prior to full hearing is a draconian step with far-reaching and serious consequences. It is an action which must be carefully considered. If there are serious concerns and an interim order is necessary, Panels must work hard to try and formulate conditions that can allay their concerns. If they simply cannot, they must articulate clearly the preceding process in their reasoning.
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