Mon 17 Jan 2022

Fitness to Practise and Regulatory Hearings

What are Regulatory Bodies? Many professions are now regulated by an official regulatory body.  In particular, healthcare regulation is a growing area and there is now a significant number of health and social care professions who require to be registered with their particular regulatory body if engaged in practice within Scotland.  The table below lists some of the main regulators:

Profession Regulatory Body
Social Workers and other Social Service Workers The Scottish Social Services Council - SSSC
Health and Care Professionals Health and Care Professions Council - HCPC
Nurses and Midwifes The Nursing and Midwifery Council - NMC
Doctors The General Medical Council - GMC
Dentists The General Dental Council
Teachers General Teaching Council for Scotland - GTCS
Pharmacists General Pharmaceutical Council
Chiropractors General Chiropractic Council
Osteopaths General Osteopathic Council
Opticians General Optical Council



As well as maintaining registers and producing codes of practice, regulatory bodies can commence an investigation / disciplinary proceedings if they have concerns about a registrant's fitness to practise and sanctions can be imposed if fitness to practise is found to be impaired.

What is Fitness to Practise?

Each body has its own definition but put simply, if someone is fit to practise, they have the appropriate skills, knowledge, character and health to practise their profession safely and effectively.

What if my Fitness to Practise is called into question?

If you have received correspondence from your regulatory body regarding your fitness to practise, it is recommended that you obtain specialist advice at an early stage. 

Whilst we understand it can be a daunting and worrying experience, try not to despair or immediately assume the worst - we can help guide and support you through the process.

At Morton Fraser, we have a team of experienced lawyers who are adept at navigating regulatory processes and hearings.  We know the key issues to focus on and the procedural and legal rules that must be followed from the start.

Whilst there are numerous regulatory bodies governed by their own statutory rules, there is also a significant overlap both in terms of procedure and legal principles which are applied in all disciplinary processes, regardless of the profession being regulated. 

Following an investigation, regulatory disciplinary proceedings usually involve a three-stage process - the fact-finding stage, the impairment stage and the sanction stage.  The regulatory body will have drafted charges which set out the alleged misconduct, lack of competence or health condition.  The burden of proof is on the regulatory body to prove the charges on the balance of probabilities.

If the facts are found proved, it will be necessary to determine whether the registrant's fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of misconduct, lack of competence or a health condition. If so, the appropriate sanction will be considered.  The most serious sanction is striking off from the register.  Other potential sanctions include temporary removal from the register (suspension), a condition of practice order or a caution.

It is important to remember that regulatory hearings are different from Employment Tribunals - whilst regulatory bodies are there to protect the profession and service to end-users, there is usually a focus on remediation rather than punishment.  Every effort should therefore be made to remediate any misconduct through reflection on better practise, re-training, performance improvement and demonstrating good practice in the workplace going forward. 

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