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A nurse was accused of failing to declare previous criminal convictions when applying for a healthcare assistant post and band 5 nurse role, leading to her facing the NMC’s fitness to practise panel
Nurse A was accused of:
1. Failing to declare previous convictions when applying to work at the trust as a healthcare assistant (HCA) in 2012;
2. Failing to declare all previous convictions in application to the trust as a band 5 nurse in 2018;
3. The actions in charge 1 and 2, were dishonest and Nurse A’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct.
Nurse A admitted charges 1 and 2, so the panel found these proven by admission; it then needed to consider the facts relating to charge 3.
The trust was contacted by University A about Nurse A’s application for a place on an advanced standing nursing course. As a part of the admissions process, Nurse A was interviewed and a criminal conviction check carried out; this indicated she had a list of prior convictions. The university expressed concern about the range and seriousness of these, and asked the trust whether it was aware of them and still satisfied to employ Nurse A.
The trust determined that, due to an oversight, an enhanced background check had not taken place when Nurse A was appointed as a band 5 nurse.
With Nurse A’s consent, the trust did a disclosure check, which showed convictions dated 1990-2000 for 15 offences, including juvenile and adult convictions for burglary, and criminal damage and motoring offences that included imprisonment for non-payment of fines.
The trust reviewed Nurse A’s application for the HCA and band 5 nurse roles, in which she failed to declare any of the convictions. After a disciplinary hearing in June 2019, Nurse A was dismissed; she appealed but the dismissal was upheld.
At the hearing
The case presenter for the NMC submitted it was more likely than not that Nurse A’s actions in failing to declare her convictions on two occasions were dishonest and that Nurse A must have realised this. The wording of each application form was clear and specifically indicated that no convictions could be considered ‘‘spent’’ in this context. She suggested the panel find charge 3 proven.
The legal representative for Nurse A submitted that she failed to properly read the application forms and believed convictions that she considered spent need not be disclosed. He also said she had forgotten the juvenile convictions, and she thought these did not carry into adulthood so need not be declared. On this basis, he submitted Nurse A’s actions were not dishonest.
Nurse A told the panel she was careless and failed to read the small print on spent convictions and didn’t recall the two juvenile convictions. She said she had completed the nursing application form in stages and may have intended to review its accuracy later.
The panel found the wording on the forms to be clear and did not accept her explanation, noting that when trying to explain her failure to declare her juvenile convictions, she said she had forgotten them but, when questioned, recalled the circumstances in detail. It determined that she acted dishonestly, proving charge 3.
The case presenter submitted that her actions fell short of the standards expected of a registered nurse. The legal representative said that Nurse A accepted her past misdoings but that since 2018 she had fully informed all employers and potential employers of her convictions. Nurse A said she accepted the panel’s findings and apologised for bringing the profession into disrepute, that she had made an error of judgement and understood the impact of her actions.
The panel concluded that Nurse A’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of her misconduct.
Results of the fitness-to-practise panel
The FtP panel can impose four different sanctions:
- Caution: the nurse or midwife is cautioned for their behaviour, but is allowed to practise without restriction
- Conditions of practice: this will prevent a registrant from carrying out certain types of work or working in a particular setting, it may require them to attend occupational health or do retraining. The order can be applied for up to three years and must be reviewed by an FTP panel again before expiry
- Suspension: the nurse or midwife will be suspended from practice for a period of initially not longer than one year, but this can be extended after review by an FTP panel
- Striking off: a nurse or midwife is removed from the register and not allowed to practise in the UK. The nurse or midwife must apply to be readmitted to the register