Investigations are Utterly Traumatic Experiences – Regardless of the Final Outcome
The trauma experienced by any healthcare professional facing a fitness to practise investigation cannot be overstated – and the phrase ‘second victim’ is very apt here. Investigations cast a very dark cloud that looms large over the whole of your personal and professional life for a substantial period of time, even if your fitness to practise is eventually found not to be impaired and no sanctions are imposed.
It is a sad fact that fitness to practise investigations very often take a very long time to conclude, in some cases more than a year. From our years of experience representing and defending healthcare professionals, we know that investigations do result in heightened stress and anxiety. Healthcare professionals report that a life and career ‘in limbo’ and impacts on other areas of their professional and personal life, including issues relating to finance, career development, relationship breakdowns and maintaining professional registration.
The vast majority of fitness to practise investigations are closed without action. Whilst this should provide relief and assurance to the majority of healthcare professionals, the downside is that it can still take a long time for your regulator to reach the conclusion of their investigation.
We Understand Mistakes Happen
The significant majority of healthcare professionals want to do a good job, but the reality is that sometimes things do go wrong and mistakes are made. Working in healthcare is increasingly pressured and stressful. Mistakes, often, do not happen in isolation and there are usually other factors that contribute to mistakes. We understand that wrongly focussing on the individual is wrong and unfair.
Healthcare regulators are increasingly aware of the contextual factors in fitness to practise investigations, which should provide healthcare professionals with some comfort.
It is also important to point out that not all mistakes and/or errors will result in a fitness to practise investigation. Whilst the exact guidance and approach can differ between regulators, in general, occasional one-off mistakes are unlikely in themselves to indicate a fitness to practise problem. Conversely, serious or persistent failures are likely to put a healthcare professionals’ registration at risk.
In fact, local investigations and resolutions are becoming increasingly important for minor or less serious fitness to practise complaints or concerns without the need to involve a regulator. A recent GMC related external review concluded that:
“Regulators should judge their success not by how many fitness to practise referrals they handle, but in how they support local systems towards local resolution and remediation when needed.”
Working While Under Investigation
We are often asked whether a healthcare professionals can continue to work whilst under investigation. The answer is yes, unless interim steps have been taken by your regulator to suspend (or restrict) practice.
We can advise and represent healthcare professionals facing Interim Orders Tribunals.
In fact, healthcare professionals under investigation are encouraged to continue work. This will serve as a welcome distraction, give opportunity to evidence insight and remediation and it is worth remembering that the vast majority of complaints are closed without action.
It is important to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity when faced with a fitness to practise investigation. Contact me today for a no obligation and free telephone consultation about your case in the knowledge that you are speaking to one of the best in the business.
Your Health & Wellbeing
Health is an important consideration in fitness to practise because healthcare professionals must have the health (physical and mental) necessary to practise safely and effectively. Health concerns can often be effectively managed and therefore do not give rise to fitness to practise concerns and investigations.
Ironically, however, a fitness to practise investigations can have such a dramatic impact that it can adversely affect the health and wellbeing of a healthcare professional, particularly in the case of pre-existing conditions. In extreme cases, again ironically, the impact of a fitness to practise investigation can have such an impact on the wellbeing of a healthcare professional that this, in itself, gives rise to fitness to practise concerns and (further) investigations.
Can you expect your employer to support you through your fitness to practise investigation?
Unfortunately, support from your employer will be limited. There are a number of reasons for this, but most importantly there will be an inevitable conflict of interest along the way. Your employer will be under a duty to cooperate with the investigation by, for example, providing evidence and information to support the investigation. Ultimately, your employer will struggle to provide you with support and advice at the same time as it is cooperating with the investigation, and ultimately the duty to cooperate will have to prevail.
A Compassionate Approach to Fitness to Practise Defence
Kings View fully understands that fitness to practise defence is not merely about processes and procedures. We also understand that we are working with people who are anxious and worried about what investigations might mean for them, their professions and the reputations.
We never lose sight of the human aspects of FtP investigations and hearings. We will always give an open and honest assessment of cases, but we will marry that with an approach that also supports health and care professionals through the duration of a case.
“I was not optimistic about the case, I felt that it is a lost case that we couldn’t do much about and especially just before the start of the trial I lost my confidence and was very nervous. Mr McCaffrey was there to prove me wrong. He turned everything around in a victorious, panegyric manner. I was stunned.” – CL
With over 30 years combined experience, Kings View Chambers have established itself as one of the best when it comes to fitness to practise defence. We are proud to be rated ‘excellent’ by our clients.
Our commitment to client care is genuine in both seeking the very best outcomes for our clients, but also ensuring we do what we can to support them through the process.
Disclaimer: This article is for guidance purposes only. Kings View Chambers accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken, or not taken, in relation to this article. You should seek the appropriate legal advice having regard to your own particular circumstances.