The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says it believes the statutory body responsible for regulating the profession brings some cases against nurses when there is little or no evidence to back the allegations against them.
Speaking to delegates at the INMO’s annual conference last night, Edward Mathews, its director of regulation and social policy, said the group has provided €500,000 worth of assistance to members who have defended fitness-to-practise cases in the past two years.
Mr Mathews said a minority of cases brought by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland are of “concern” to the INMO.
“There is real concern that in some cases the CEO of the NMBI embarks on cases where there is insufficient evidence, or refuses to withdraw allegations where evidence is not available,” said Mr Mathews.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Mathews said the INMO supports a thorough, fair, and transparent regulatory process.
“In a minority of cases we have seen a troubling occurrence where matters have proceeded past the preliminary stage, and perhaps that is unobjectionable,” he said.
“However between the preliminary stage and the full hearing it becomes apparent that either all the allegations, or more frequently some of the allegations, will not or cannot be supported by evidence, or there isn’t evidence available.
“We have seen the NMBI in certain cases, not all, proceeding to hearing and you are then in a situation where you have then to spend thousands of euro preparing a defence and then you have to make extensive legal argument to have allegations withdrawn that should never have appeared.
“We have no objection to having to mount a robust defence to evidence which is available, but it is entirely objectionable, entirely unfair, and a disproportionate interference with a person to require them to answer allegations which are not supported by evidence and they should never get to the hearing on that basis.”
Mr Mathews said the issue is not widespread but is one “that shouldn’t arise at all”.
“The public have the right to expect that they can make a complaint against a nurse or midwife, they have the right to expect that if it reaches the threshold, and if there is evidence to support it, that the nurse or midwife will have to answer that allegation,” he said.
“We have no objection to that, it is important to the profession of nursing and midwifery and it is important for the public, but only where you have evidence to support an allegation because the expenditure of public money and the burden on individual registrants where allegations are proceeded with without evidence to support them isn’t supported by any rational basis whatsoever.”
Mr Mathews told delegates the cost of such cases average around €6,765 a day for one defence solicitor or €9,711 a day if counsel is also required.
Mr Mathews said the costs of such cases fall on the individual nurse if they are not members of the INMO.
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