During this extraordinary time, fitness to practise panels and tribunals have been cancelled or postponed.  What does this mean for healthcare professionals?

Healthcare regulators

As the country responds to the Covid-19 outbreak, there is recognition that healthcare workers and professionals will be faced with situations that will require decisions that will go against established principles and guidance.

Healthcare regulators have issued a joint statement saying:

“We recognise that the individuals on our registers may feel anxious about how context is taken into account when concerns are raised about their decisions and actions in very challenging circumstances. Where a concern is raised about a registered professional, it will always be considered on the specific facts of the case, taking into account the factors relevant to the environment in which the professional is working. We would also take account of any relevant information about resource, guidelines or protocols in place at the time.”  

Fitness to practise during Covid-19

A very important note of caution here. Although fitness to practise hearings have been cancelled or postponed and regulators recognising the unique circumstances, healthcare regulators will continue to investigate and act on concerns raised.

In the NMC’s statement on how it will continue to regulate during Covid-19, it said:

We have identified four essential fitness to practise services that we must continue to deliver:

  1. Logging and risk assessing any new referrals, and any new information on existing referrals
  2. Interim order applications and review hearings
  3. Substantive order review hearings
  4. High Court or Court of Sessions interim order extension applications.

The GMC’s guidance for doctors says:

“We expect doctors will behave responsibly, reasonably and will be able to explain their decisions and actions if they’re called on to do so… Patients must not be exposed to unnecessary risk. Difficult decisions may need to be made quickly about what is the safest and best course of action at any given time.”

The HCPC confirmed that, whilst it had postponed hearings, it will:

  1. It will continue to receive and triage new concerns
  2. Undertake casework as normal
  3. It will raise new interim orders and continue to review existing ones
  4. It will continue with its investigation committee panels as normal

Other healthcare regulators have similarly confirmed that fitness to practise for their registrants will continue.

Hearings & decision making

Hearings from all the UK’s healthcare regulators have been postponed and is some cases cancelled.  As things improve in the months to come, hearings may initially be done remotely and Kings View Chambers is already setup to respond to this.

Not all decisions made by healthcare regulators however require panel hearings.  In the main, healthcare regulators will continue with Interim Order decisions but without a public meeting.  Please contact us for advice if you are facing a fitness to practise investigation or subject to an Interim Order.

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