The significance of Interim orders in Fitness to Practise Investigations
Each professional healthcare regulator has the ability to impose an interim order on a registrant who is subject to a Fitness to Practise investigation. This is usually sought in cases where the regulator takes the view that an order is required to protect the public, is otherwise in the public interest or to protect the registrant themself.
The significance of these orders should not be underestimated, as not only can they deprive a registrant of being able to work, but they can also deprive them of the ability to demonstrate to a panel that they are capable of working to a competent and professional standard and most importantly in the context of such an investigation be evidence that they are not currently impaired. Because an application for an interim order often comes early on in the investigation, when a registrant has not sought legal advice and the notice period is often short, many registrants do not seek legal advice. This is then often to their detriment when they realise the significance of these orders; which can deprive them of their livelihood.
Once the order has been made the only recourse is an appeal to the High Court on the basis of the order being wrong in law or procedure or disproportionate; not only may there not be a meritorious line of appeal to be taken, but such appeals are very costly. Thus, the importance of a registrant seeking legal assistance at the first instance.
We are able to offer a registrant a package which includes preparation and representation at an Interim order hearing. This package includes us instructing an experienced barrister to represent the registrant at the hearing, a virtual/telephone conference with us and the barrister and us contacting testimonials on the registrant’s behalf and submitting these and a bundle of supporting documents; which may include a reflective piece if relevant, to the panel. We complete this work for a fixed fee of £3,000 plus VAT.
Once a registrant is subject to an interim order, this is subject to a review, usually within the first six months and then at six monthly intervals thereafter; there is no reason why at a review hearing legal representations cannot be made to lift a suspension and either make no order or to order conditions of practice. In some cases an application can be made for an early review, before the 6-month period expires; if there is new information that comes to light. Again this is something we can advise on individually and offer a fee accordingly.
We have had some recent success at a review hearing, where our representations led to an interim suspension order being lifted. We worked closely with the registrant, to produce a detailed witness statement and reflective account and contacting their current employers to obtain testimonials and their support for a conditions of practice order. The evidence we collated and served was found to be sufficient for the panel to conclude that the risk of repetition had been mitigated and was very low and that there was no longer a real risk of harm to the public, accordingly they lifted the suspension order.
If you are a registrant facing an interim order hearing for the first time or have a review hearing coming up, get in touch with the team here at Richard Nelson Solicitors for some advice on how we can help you or visit our professional discipline page to learn more.