Okeke v Nursing and Midwifery Council QBD (Admin), 27 February 2013

This case concerned the decision of the NMC to strike off a nurse on the grounds of lack of competence. Under article 29(6) of the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001, a strike off can only be imposed for lack of competence if the registrant has been 'continuously suspended, or subject to a conditions of practice order, for a period of no less than two years immediately preceding the date of the decision of the committee'.

The nurse had been subject to an interim suspension order for a period of four and half years while waiting for the substantive case to come to a hearing. The NMC contended that this was sufficient to satisfy the requirements of article 29(6).

The nurse appealed against the strike off on the basis that the interim suspension order to which she had been subject did not count towards the two-year period specified in article 29(6).

The court noted that the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001 distinguished between interim suspension and conditions orders and those orders which were not interim and which were described as sanctions. It was held that only the latter type could count towards the specified two-year period.

The court further noted that, if this were not the case, there would be the perverse result that the longer and more unreasonable any delay in bringing a case to a substantive hearing, the greater the risk that a more severe sanction could be imposed.

The court also held that the delay in bringing the matter to hearing, which the NMC had not explained, had breached the article 6 rights of the registrant.

The striking off order was quashed and remitted. The court also directed that the new panel have regard to the delay when it reconsidered the appropriate sanction.