In addition to the introduction of “consensual panel determinations” in fitness to practise proceedings, the NMC has also announced that as from 14 January 2013 it will provide a mechanism for nurses and midwives who are subject to fitness to practise proceedings to voluntarily remove their names from the NMC register.

Under the new process, where a nurse or midwife who admits that their fitness to practise has been impaired does not intend to continue to practice, they can opt to have themselves permanently removed from the register without the need for a full public hearing – thus allowing the NMC to take swift action to protect the public following its investigation and freeing up resources that can be used in cases where significant matters are in dispute.

The intention is that voluntary removal will only be allowed in limited circumstances where there is no public interest in holding a full hearing and where patients are best protected by a nurse or midwife’s immediate removal from the register and is likely to be available to those who accept that they are no longer fit to practise due to a serious or long-term health condition or are near retirement age. It will not be allowed where the allegations are so serious that public confidence in professional standards would suffer if they were not dealt with at a public hearing. This includes cases where the actions of a nurse or midwife have caused the death of a patient or other significant harm including sexual misconduct.

While an application for voluntary removal can be made at any time, it will not be allowed until a full investigation into the allegation has been completed. Where possible the Registrar will consider the views of the person who made the initial allegation before making a decision.

If an application is allowed, the nurse or midwife will appear on the NMC website with the status ‘voluntarily removed’ next to their name. The admissions made by the nurse or midwife may be made available to relevant enquirers, including potential employers, other regulators and overseas medical authorities.

Jackie Smith, NMC Chief Executive and Registrar said:

“Voluntary removal ensures that we can take swift action to safeguard patients and the public and will allow fitness to practise cases to progress more efficiently and cost-effectively.

“It supports our core purpose of protecting the public, and cannot be used as an ‘easy way out’ for nurses and midwives who wish to avoid a full public hearing. In deciding whether voluntary removal should be approved, we will consider the public interest, the interests of the nurse or midwife and the views of the person who made the allegation about the nurse or midwife and brought them to the NMC’s attention.”

Further details about voluntary removal can be obtained from the NMC website