16 November 2015

What happens at a fitness to practise hearing?

Your six-point guide to the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) hearing process.

1. The panel

The three-strong panel considering the case will be led by a Chair. The Chair may be a lay person or from one of our professions. They will be joined by a lay person, who is not registered with us, plus a registrant from the same profession as the person being investigated.

Panels of the Conduct and Competence Committee consider allegations that a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct, lack of competence, or a conviction or caution for a criminal offence. Panels of the Health Committee consider allegations that registrants’ fitness to practise is impaired by reason of their physical and/or mental health.

2. Public or private?

Hearings are usually held in public. This means that members of the public (including the press) can attend. Hearings may sometimes be held or part-held in private if there is confidential information involved. For example, if the panel thinks they need to protect service user confidentiality, the registrant’s private life or that of any witnesses.

Even if a hearing is held in private, any decisions the panel makes and the reasons for them, still need to be publically available.

3. Considered factors

In deciding whether a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, the panel will take into account factors including:
  • Whether they have ignored previous warnings
  • Whether they have taken action to correct their behaviour
  • Whether they have insight (understanding of the harm caused)
  • The link between their conduct and their profession
  • Whether their behaviour has undermined public confidence
  • Whether they have not met our standards of conduct, performance and ethics
  • Whether they are likely to repeat the behaviour

4. Possible sanctions

If the panel finds the case against the registrant is well-founded, there are a number of actions they may take or sanctions which can apply:
  • Take no further action or order mediation (a process where an independent person helps agree a solution to any issues)
  • Caution order (place a warning on the Register for between one to five years)
  • Conditions of practice order (setting conditions which must be met, e.g. working under supervision or further training)
  • Suspension from practice (for no longer than one year)
  • Striking-off order (registrant’s name will be struck from the Register which means they can no longer practice)

5. Timescales

The time a case takes to reach the end of the process can vary depending on the nature of the investigation, how complicated the issues are, and the availability of parties to give evidence to the panel. We understand that it can be stressful when an FtP concern is raised, and we will provide you with an idea of how long our enquiries will take at each stage of the process. 

In 2013-14 the length of time of cases referred for a hearing to conclude was an average of 17 and a median of 14 months from receipt of the allegation. Continuing to analyse the length of time cases take to conclude has enabled us to identify a number of early triggers that can be used to predict the impact on the lifetime of a single case, and the overall system.

6. Appealing a decision

Registrants can appeal against the panel’s decision if they consider it is wrong or the sanction is unfair. The appeal is heard by the High Court in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, or the Court of Session in Scotland. In 2013-14, seven registrants appealed the decisions made by the Conduct and Competence Committee. To date, two appeals were withdrawn by the registrant, three were dismissed by the court, one case had a substituted decision and one is ongoing.

For more information about fitness to practise hearings watch our YouTube video or visit www.hcpc-uk.org/complaints/hearings/atthehearing