A self-referral is when you inform a regulator of a concern about your own conduct, competence or health that may impair your fitness to practise.
Under certain circumstances, the requirement to self-refer might be clear but this is not always the case, for example in the case of health concerns. In this article we will look at self-referral in the context of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), when to consider self-referral and how the HCPC will deal with your referral.
To self-refer or not?
Like other healthcare regulators, the HCPC has a set of standards for conduct, performance and ethics that all of the professionals on its register must adhere to. These standards include information about, in this case, when to notify the HCPC when a registrant’s conduct has fallen short of the standards.
In particular, HCPC standard 9.5 requires a registrant to tell (or self-refer), as soon as possible, under the following circumstances:
- they accept a caution from the police or you have been charged with, or found guilty of, a criminal offence;
- another organisation responsible for regulating a health or social-care profession has taken action or made a finding against you; or
- they have had any restriction placed on your practice, or been suspended or dismissed by an employer, because of concerns about your conduct or competence.
Whilst the requirement above might appear clear, there are important considerations for HCPC registrants to consider. It is important and strongly advisable for a HCPC registrant to seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible prior to making a self-referral.
There are other, less explicit, circumstances that might also warrant a self-referral consideration. The HCPC guidance is less clear what these circumstances might be. The guidance merely states that “You can tell us about other concerns that do not meet these criteria.” Under these circumstances, you should consider advice.
Adverse health is a relevant consideration in the context of self-referrals. Whilst the issue of adverse health is slightly more complex, the principal issue to consider is whether your adverse health can be managed such that it does not impact on your ability to practise safely and therefore your fitness to practise. You can read more about adverse health and fitness to practise on the website.
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Fitness to Practise Process
A self-referral to the HCPC is treated the same as any other HCPC fitness to practise referral. For a general overview of the HCPC fitness to practise process you can visit my YouTube channel.
Briefly stated, a self-referral will initially be triaged. Following this, if the issue is one for the HCPC to consider, it will launch a formal investigation and gather further evidence. At the conclusion of the initial investigation, the HCPC will assess the evidence against its threshold criteria for fitness to practise investigations.
If your self-referral meets that HCPC fitness to practise threshold, it will refer the matter to the Investigating Committee or close the case if the HCPC fitness to practise threshold has not been met. The Investigating Committee can close the case, ask for more information or refer the issue to a fitness to practise committee.
You can expect the initial process to take up to eight months. If the matter is to be referred to a fitness to practise committee, it could take a further nine months.
Seek Expert Legal Advice
Kings View Chambers understand that the prospect of a fitness to practise investigation is stressful and daunting for most health and care professionals. Seeking specialist legal advice at the earliest opportunity is important and often key to an early and positive outcome for health and care professionals.
We strongly advise health and care professionals to seek legal advice when considering a self-referral. Seeking specialist fitness to practise legal advice is important to discuss the individual merits of your case but also to take advice on the best strategy and approach to take should a referral be necessary.
We successfully work with many health and care professionals on the right strategy to ensure, where possible, an early resolution to a fitness to practise issue without the need for a full fitness to practise committee that is stressful and costly.
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.