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NMC: Referrals and support

 A referral to the NMC? The RCN is here for you.

We recognise that being referred to the NMC can be distressing and isolating. Being referred can also lead to other issues with finances, relationships and maintaining professional registration. This practical guide outlines the process and the RCN services that are available to support you.

If you were not in RCN membership at the time of the incident that led to the referral, please read our advice on legal support for matters which occurred outside membership

The NMC’s duty is to protect the public by only permitting nurses who are safe to practise to do so. Staff at the NMC recognise that it is very distressing for a nurse to be investigated by the NMC. However, the NMC has to carry out investigations when a complaint has been referred to them. At the RCN, we work to ensure that the investigations and hearings are carried out fairly and that our members’ evidence is properly taken into account.

Your case may progress in one of several different ways. Rather than try to outline them all here, it is best to concentrate on your own path and be guided by your RCN legal representative, who can answer questions you may have on the process as it relates to you.

There is also comprehensive information available on the NMC website.

As soon as you hear from the NMC, you should contact usWe will advise you and make referrals to the RCN services you require. You will be referred to RCN Legal Services who can provide advice and representation on the case.

A member of RCN Legal Services or specialist agent appointed by the RCN will be allocated to handle your case. They will prepare each step of the case and ask you to provide your comments and give instructions.

Your representative’s role is to present the case in a way that will bring about the best practicable outcome for you, which will be discussed with you. At times, that means that your representative might need to ask you challenging questions to test the strength of your evidence, and this is always done to work out the best way to present your case.

You will be sent a client care letter at the time of your referral which clearly sets out what you can expect from RCN Legal Services, as well as the input required from you.

Members often reflect on how isolated they felt during the investigation. You may be prohibited from speaking to colleagues or just lose touch. Some members turn to family and friends for support, but they may not always understand what you are going through.

If you are feeling stressed, disappointed or upset at any point, contact the RCN’s Counselling Service. We offer short term, telephone based counselling as part of your membership and we understand the impact that a referral to the NMC can have on all areas of your life.

You should also make sure you look after yourself – our guidance on self-care can help.

NMC investigations can take time and you may find that you have restrictions placed upon your practice. You may have concerns about maintaining your registration through Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and accessing other learning; the latter can be harder if you are not working under a contract of employment as this is often a condition of acceptance onto courses. Continue with your CPD, your reflection on what has happened, and any learning that is relevant to your situation.

Guidance on reflection with links to several models of reflection is available here

Securing any voluntary and paid work (undertaken within any restrictions on practice set by the NMC) can be helpful with your case as you may be able to obtain references to present to the NMC panel.

During the NMC investigation period, it is helpful to engage with the NMC process. We understand this can feel overwhelming and the support provided by the RCN can help you through this difficult time.

Additionally you may have questions about disclosing your situation to prospective employers.

Depending upon your circumstances, our advice guide 'applying for a job following dismissal' may be useful.

If your financial situation changes due to a referral to the NMC, our Financial wellbeing service could help you maximise your income and check your eligibility for benefits.

Our welfare service may also be able to help with other issues such as challenging benefit decisions or with rental arrears.

Please contact us and check the links to the services above for full details.

There is no obligation for you to refer yourself to the NMC unless you:

  • have received a caution, charge, conviction or conditional discharge for a criminal offence
  • are or have been disciplined by any regulatory or licensing organisation.

If your employer tells you or tries to encourage you to ‘self-refer’ to the NMC, this is ultimately your choice. We do not usually encourage self-referral because;

  • your employer might not make that referral and consequently you experience an avoidable NMC investigation
  • the NMC will not criticise you for failing to self-refer (unless there is a specific obligation under the NMC Code)
  • though the NMC may give you some credit for self-referring, they may only give this limited weight.

It is important that you contact us to discuss your situation and seek advice if you think it may be necessary to self-refer for any reason. We can consider the individual facts of your case and help you make an informed decision.

You can find detailed information on making a self-referral to the NMC on the NMC website.

If you are changing employers, please also see 'referral to the NMC and change of employer' below.

Many employment application forms ask the applicant whether they have ever been referred to the NMC and these need to be completed accurately. The NMC Code also states you must declare to an employer or new employer, any restriction on your practice imposed by the NMC.

Once you have been referred, we usually advise that you tell a new employer because this will engender a trusting relationship with your new employer and the NMC is likely to get in touch with the new employer at some point anyway. However, there is no obligation for you to tell a new employer that a previous employer intends to refer you to the NMC. It is your choice whether to share this information but it may be advisable not to, as it may not happen.  Please also see 'self-referral' above. 

If you're worried about your immigration status due to a referral to the NMC, please contact us to be put in contact with our Immigration Advice Service.

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Page last updated - 26/05/2022