Fitness to practice – regulation – what’s going on?

A. Background factors

a) Declining respect for Professionals both corporately and individually.
b) A series of cases involving:-
i) A breakdown in the trust between the Professional and the Public;
ii) Damage to the reputation of or a loss of public confidence in the profession;
iii) Calls for increased protection for members of the public as a result of allegations of failures on the part of Professionals.
c) Too many unfortunate outcomes to those cases.
d) An increasing expectation by members of the public of Professionals who equate a sub standard result with a substandard service.
e) Continuing Legislative changes since 2000 designed to promote best practice amongst Professionals mandating self regulation by the various medical professions.
f) Non medical professions, voluntarily adopting similar principles of self regulation.
g) Standards of, and procedures to enforce, best practice are being developed and adopted and applied by many Professional Bodies to regulate the activities of their members.
h) The Professional Organisation who are concerned to serve and protect the profession are increasingly the enforcers of standards to be attained (i.e. the Regulator).

B. Current situation

a) Regulators insofar as they have not already done so are adopting Regulatory (including Disciplinary) Procedures and Codes of Conduct and are charged to ensure that their members maintain the standards of the professions.
b) Procedure specific training and delivery to provide a reliable technical service is now what is required by Regulators rather than the general application of a body of skills.
c) The objective is that:-
i) Professionals should be very clearly aware of and therefore can more easily comply with their duties;
ii) Professionals should be protected from the ever increasing expectations of the public where too often a sub-standard result is equated with a sub-standard service;
iii) Public confidence in the profession as a whole will be enhanced.
d) There is now a rise of a managerial elite who seek to control what Professionals do and how they are to do it. It is to be hoped they do not pursue ever more unrealistic standards or apply them unreasonably and this is where adequate representation is so important.
e) Allegations of Fitness to Practice or Misconduct will be investigated and determined in accordance with procedures adopted or to be adopted in roughly similar ways by the various Regulators. The standards required for each profession should reflect the degree of risk involved in practicing. Equally sanctions imposed should be proportionate to the nature and gravity of the issue. Good advice and representation often affects the outcome.
f) In matters of disciplinary proceedings all evidence must be properly examined, ultimately in an adversarial hearing, unless previously compromised to the Professional’s satisfaction. Where there is doubt it is the function of good representation to have this resolved in favour of the accused.

C. Specific matters

i) For those involved in Healthcare or Social Care:-
Your Regulators include, according to your profession:-

  • GMC
  • GDC
  • GOC
  • GOsC
  • HPC
  • NMC
  • PSNI

and generally Social Care Councils. Pervading all of which is the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE).

Click here for an explanation of the investigation procedures as applied to Medical Doctors. The explanation describes a procedure specific to the GMC who are the Professional Body for Doctors, i.e. the Regulator It can usefully be read as background information to give you some idea of similar procedures that are applied by the other Regulators. The GMC is possibly the most established Regulatory Body of all the professions in terms of the length of time it has practiced as a Regulator. It is from experience of the pitfalls and practices of the GMC over many years that many of the principles now of general application have been tested.

ii) For those who are not involved in the Medical Industry:-

Your Professional Body will have adopted or will be considering adopting codes of conduct and a Regulatory Function. If you, as a Professional, are the victim of unwarranted allegations you may be called to account according to the constitution of the profession concerned. Whether this is a matter of Professional misconduct or not we can act for you.

There are approximately one hundred Associations, Academies, Societies, Institutes, Councils and Colleges covering all sorts of diverse occupations, including Architects, Art Historians, Tax Technicians, Engineers, Managers and Directors, Landscapers, Town Planners, Surveyors and Secretaries.

The general principles referred to on this site are very broadly similar to that which is likely to apply to you.

iii) A reminder for all:-

What is being discussed on this site is not litigation arising from a claim against you, as a Professional for, e.g. negligence. It is representation advice and assistance, in relation to complaints or allegations made against you by, or involving, your Regulator which may or may not arise out of alleged or proved negligence but which in any event does involve your Fitness to Practice in the future as judged by your Regulator. Charges brought against you may arise from allegations of dishonesty, misconduct, poor performance, physical or mental health or factors involving the protection of the reputation of the profession or the protection of the public

D. What is to come?

i) Registration – escalating requirements for appropriate qualifications to be a member, subject to criteria determined by, and renewed from time to time by, your Regulator;
ii) Continuous Professional Development (CPD) – being training, retraining and education necessary to be undertaken during specific periods as part of the continuing qualification to remain registered;
iii) Revalidation – which is often a form of peer review, from time to time, requiring Professionals to show that they are fit to stay on the Register in accordance with the purpose or requirements of the Profession. The theory being that acceptable revalidation will reduce the risks of practice.