In granting a limited extension to an interim suspension order, the High Court considered that, in seeking extension of the order, the NMC did not treat the registrant as an individual but as 'one of many'. The case is a useful reminder to regulators of the importance of treating each registrant's case on its own facts.
The NMC sought an extension of 10 months to an interim suspension order. A had been a temporary nurse at a care home. The home went into administration against the background of a 'catastrophic failure of care'. The home was the subject of both a police investigation (though no charges were brought) and a coroner's inquest. When the initial suspension order was imposed, A was not engaging with the NMC. Subsequently, A corresponded with the NMC more frequently. In addition, his correspondence appears to have cast new light on the background to the case against him. The High Court extended the order by 9 months in November 2013 on the basis that the case was likely to be heard between January and March 2014. In spite of that, in May 2014 the NMC joined A's case to that of two other registrants arising out of the same home, leading to delay. At the time the High Court heard the present application, no further date had been set for the hearing. A neither consented nor opposed the present application, having returned to Hungary to work in the aviation industry.
The High Court granted a limited extension of three months. The Judge noted that, having read all of the material in the application bundle, A did not appear to pose such a risk to the public as would necessitate such a lengthy suspension. Moreover (and most interestingly), the Judge commented 'I perceive that this nurse has not been treated as an individual practitioner, but as one of many. The specific charges against him, the need for his case to be dealt with within a reasonable time and the question of whether he needs to be suspended in the meantime, might not have been given as much thought as they perhaps ought to have been given in the NMC's natural concern to deal with the larger investigation fairly and compendiously.'
This latter point is likely to provide a useful reminder to regulators dealing with cases of systemic and institutional failure affecting a number of registrants. While the temptation may be to treat all of those involved alike, regulators should remind themselves of Hiew v GMC  EWCA Civ 369 and the fact that the test to be applied is whether the individual registrant poses such a risk to the public that suspension is necessary in the circumstances of the case. If regulators take a blanket approach to suspensions in such cases, they can expect their applications to be closely scrutinised by the High Court.