04 October 2016

The role of the HCPC fitness to practise panel

Registered Paramedic Mark Woolcock explains that the fitness to practise panel is there to determine whether an HCPC registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

During a hearing, evidence is put forward by the HCPC and the registrant, and witnesses can be questioned. The panel will then listen, evaluate and place weight on the evidence it hears before deciding whether any action needs to be taken in order to protect the public.

The Panel doesn’t represent the HCPC and we act independently of them. A fitness to practise panel is made up of three members: A chairperson who leads the hearing and speaks for the panel, a lay person who is not registered with the HCPC and a registrant member from the same profession as the person being investigated.

My role as a paramedic registrant panel member is to evaluate all available information and evidence, and assist the panel in making an objective and informed decision. I feel it is a very privileged position to be in. I have great a responsibility to ensure continued public protection and confidence in the profession, while simultaneously providing an intuitive and empirical perspective to help understand the role of the registrant. My advice to anyone involved in a process is to always attend the hearing. The panel want to hear what everyone has to say and I cannot emphasise enough how much value the panel place on attendance.

The panel work usually starts months in advance; the Scheduling Team will sort out panel member’s availability. Once a date is confirmed, the office will ensure that no conflict of interest exists and that the panel members have no involvement with parties in the case.

Once confirmed, the papers will be sent out in good time. I do two readings: firstly when the papers have arrived so I can familiarise myself with the parties (again to finally ensure no conflict of interest) and also to obtain an understanding of the issues. My final reading is the day before the panel meets, and I find this enables me to have a really good handle on all of the information and details.

After every single hearing or panel activity I have been involved in, I am always left with a huge sense of contributing to a fair and just process and the sole objective is to allow the truth to be heard.
I applied for this role because I have a strong professional conscience and believe whole-heartedly in our profession and the people carrying out our role. It would be too easy to say my only objective was to ensure continued public safety, but I do believe strongly in ensuring that any registrant going through a fitness to practise process is supported and measured against only the most objective standard. I want registrants to believe the process is fair and just, and have confidence in the panel members experience and integrity.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article, Mark. The registrant and lay members of the FtP panels contribute greatly to the regulatory process and should be commended for their dedication and service, It is, however, a matter of concern that where registrants are found unfit for practice and removed from the register following a FtP hearing, they are not prevented from carrying out the same care in the private sector using the same designated title, such as paramedic, physiotherapist or podiatrist, providing they make it expressly clear they are no longer registered with the HCPC.

    Wouldn't you agree therefore, in these circumstances, where the underlying legislation is clearly deficient allowing an individual identified as a clear risk to the public to continue in practice without any further professional scrutiny, the current regulatory process is not only impotent, but dangerous?