The Health and Care Professions Council, referred to commonly by their acronym, the HCPC, regulate a number of health and care professions.
They have published standards of proficiency for each profession, but they also have a general code of ethics, referred to as the Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics (“SCPE”) which sets out for all HCPC registrants what the HCPC expect in terms of their conduct. The SCPE also sets out a benchmark to measure conduct against, for registration issues and also in HCPC fitness to practise investigations.
When the HCPC refer to HCPC fitness to practise, this means that a registrant has the appropriate levels of skills, knowledge and good character to be able to practise effectively and safely. This is wider than the registrant’s clinical performance. Fitness to practise includes any conduct which may affect the public’s confidence in the health and care profession, or which may raise a public safety issue. This can, therefore, include issues arising in a registrant’s personal life as well as their professional life.
If concerns are raised about a registrant’s HCPC fitness to practise, the HCPC will investigate the concerns to ascertain if they amount to a fitness to practise issue and, if so, whether the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.
Impairment means concerns about an HCPC registrant’s ability to practise safely and effectively. If the HCPC find that a registrant’s HCPC fitness to practise is impaired, they will determine whether the registrant should be allowed to continue to practise, or if other action should be taken against their registration. Other action may include imposing conditions on a registrant to limit what they can do or to ensure that suitable safeguards are in place.
There are situations that arise whereby mistakes are made, without the situation reaching the threshold that the registrant’s HCPC fitness to practise is impaired. It is essential, therefore, that a registrant at the appropriate time, provides the HCPC with their version of events and their written representations about the concerns that have been raised. This is a critical opportunity to persuade the HCPC that the registrant’s fitness to practise is not impaired. Help from an expert HCPC defence lawyer should be obtained before a registrant embarks on this exercise, to ensure that the registrant’s written representations are appropriately and objectively drafted, to ensure that they are as effective as possible and that they don’t prejudice the registrant’s case.
1. What type of HCPC fitness to practise concerns will the HCPC investigate?
Each set of circumstances will be different, but the HCPC will certainly investigate concerns raised that fall into the following categories, although this list is by no means exhaustive:
- A criminal conviction/caution;
- Allegations of dishonesty;
- Improper sexual conduct;
- Substance misuse;
- Unresolved health issues of the registrant which could put service users at risk;
- Exploitation of a vulnerable person.
Whatever the nature of the allegation, where an HCPC registrant is facing a fitness to practise investigation, it is essential to obtain legal advice and representation as early as possible. It may be that through early intervention, we can stop the HCPC’s investigation from proceeding any further.
2. HCPC Fitness to Practise Case Studies
Below are brief samples of the types of HCPC fitness to practise cases where Richard Nelson LLP’s HCPC lawyers have legally represented HCPC registrants:
Operating Department Practitioner (ODP)
The client faced HCPC fitness to practise allegations that he had dishonestly sent an unsubstantiated reference for an ex-colleague. The allegations were completely denied. Following our cross-examination of the HCPC’s witnesses, the HCPC’s Conduct and Competence Committee found that the allegations were not proven and the client was therefore exonerated of the allegations.
Operating Department Practitioner (ODP)
The client faced HCPC fitness to practise allegations that she worked for an agency whilst she was off sick for her main employer. The allegations were serious and the registrant faced a genuine risk of a strike off. She was, unfortunately, unable to afford to instruct us to represent her at the hearing. However, we were able to assist her to prepare her witness statement and to advise her about the strategy to adopt for the hearing. As a result of this, the Panel were impressed that she had managed to demonstrate insight. She was, therefore, able to avoid a strike off and was instead suspended.
The client faced HCPC fitness to practise allegations where she had engaged in the inappropriate use of a social media application. This resulted in confidential data of service users being exposed. We represented her at the fitness to practise hearing and she received a 1-year caution order which was a great result and enabled her to continue with her career progression.
The client faced HCPC fitness to practise allegations that he had posted offensive remarks on Facebook about former colleagues, which constituted misconduct. We successfully persuaded the Conduct and Competency Committee to impose a caution order rather than imposing a suspension, which was a great result; particularly as it was the registrant’s second fitness to practise investigation. This outcome achieved the client’s primary objective of enabling him to continue to work.
Speech and Language Therapist
We represented the client during an HCPC fitness to practise review hearing. The registrant had previously been represented elsewhere and was under an HCPC Conditions of Practice order. This had been reviewed on one occasion and further extended. We took over the case for the registrant and represented the registrant at the next review hearing. The Committee were persuaded to revoke the conditions of practice order and so the client was able to resume unrestricted practice and put this case behind her.
The registrant faced allegations that she had dishonestly used a debit card which was not her own without lawful consent of the owner. The matter had previously been investigated but discontinued by the police. However the HCPC continued to investigate and alleged that whilst the conduct may not hit the criminal threshold, it still constituted a fitness to practise issue and amounted to misconduct. We represented the client before the HCPC’s Conduct and Competence Committee where we successfully fought the allegations and she was cleared of all allegations of misconduct.
3. How can we help with an HCPC fitness to practise investigation?
In the event that you are facing a HCPC fitness to practise investigation or hearing before the HCPC’s Conduct and Competence Committee or the HCPC’s Health Committee, expert defence representation will significantly improve your prospects of obtaining the best possible outcome. Contact our HCPC Lawyers today without delay for a free confidential telephone consultation and we will be happy to help you.
4. Ask another question
Do you have another question relating to HCPC fitness to practise that hasn’t been covered in our guide? Feel free to ask Richard Nelson LLP’s HCPC fitness to practise solicitors and we’ll endeavour to get back in touch with you as soon as possible.
- HCPC Investigations FAQs
- HCPC Lawyers
- I’ve been struck off, should I appeal?
- Health & Care Professions Council website