Publishing sanctioned nurses' details could lead some 'to consider suicide', INMO conference hears

Publishing details of every nurse sanctioned by their regulatory body could lead some to take their own lives or consider doing so, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Dr Edward Mathews, INMO director of regulation and social policy, told the union's annual conference that the proposal contained in the Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019 would be resisted by nurses, doctors, dentists and other regulated health professions.

He said the bill proposes to amend the existing Fitness to Practice regime whereby "ever single sanction without exception will be published by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI)", whereas currently there is scope to argue against publication "where there is vulnerability from a health point of view".

Dr Mathews said that while there were "many" good aspects to the bill, publishing every sanction is not one of them. He said they have evidence from psychiatrists that people who are vulnerable health-wise could develop suicidal thoughts or even attempt suicide when faced with a Fitness to Practice hearing and the prospect of their details being publicised.

"We've had people who've attempted suicide while going through the process," Dr Mathews said.

Regretfully, over the years, we've had people who committed suicide.

He said a balance needs to be struck between protecting the public interest "and what needs to be in the public domain".

Dr Mathews said the INMO is in the process of engaging in a "multi-lateral campaign" with the Irish Dental Association and the Irish Medical Organisation to resist the proposal to publish all sanctions.

He said details of each sanction "from the most minor written warning" would also be publicised in the High Court representing "a double-whammy" for nurses.

"If the Oireachtas proceeds with this reform, it is a sad reality that very vulnerable nurses and midwives and other regulated health professionals will not be able to survive the Fitness To Practice process," Dr Mathews said.

He said the INMO spends up to €500,000 each year defending its members before inquiries and that about 75% of complaints end at the preliminary inquiry stage.

Last year saw a 100% increase in the number of complaints to the NMBI, he said, with one hearing running for 14 days.

Dr Mathews said that while they support professional regulation "what we want is a fair process".

The conference, in County Meath, enters its final day tomorrow.

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