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HCPC – Revised Guidance on Health and Character

24 Apr 2016

June 18, 2014

In April 2014 the HCPC published new guidance on how they consider information provided to them by applicants and registrants regarding their health and character. The HCPC needs to ensure that all applicants and registrants are ‘fit to practise’.

What does fitness to practise mean?

Fitness to practise essentially means that the registrant has the overall skills, knowledge, character and health to perform their role effectively and safely. This fundamental principle is regarded as being necessary to safeguard the public, which is the primary role of the HCPC.

Why should I notify the HCPC about an issue regarding my health or character?

The HCPC works on the principle of self regulation, which means that each registrant has an autonomous professional responsibility to manage and maintain their fitness to practise. Each registrant therefore has a responsibility to self refer to the HCPC any changes in circumstances regarding their health or character which may impact on their ability to practise effectively and safely.

Any failure to make an appropriate disclosure to the HCPC regarding a registrant’s health or character may result in the HCPC bringing fitness to practise proceedings against the registrant.

When should I notify the HCPC about an issue regarding my health or character?

Notifications can be given to the HCPC during the registration application process, a renewal process, or if the situation is more urgent, then the registrant should make a self referral, which can be done at any time.

What constitutes ‘bad’ character?

This could include evidence of generally untrustworthiness, dishonest conduct, actions which harmed a member of the public orany conduct which may undermine the confidence of the public in the profession. This can include conduct which happened in a personal capacity as well as conduct which took place in a professional setting.

Common examples of character issues include:

  • Criminal convictions;
  • Police cautions;
  • Conditional discharge by a criminal court;
  • Disciplinary action by any other organisation responsible for regulating or licencing a health or care profession;
  • Suspension by an employer over concerns regarding conduct or competence;
  • Civil proceedings brought against a registrant. (Not including divorce.)

 

How will the HCPC consider character issues?

When considering issues regarding character the HCPC will consider if the behaviour means the registrant can practise without putting the public at risk or undermining public confidence in the registrant or the profession as a whole. Each situation will be considered individually.

The HCPC will take into consideration factors such as:

  • The number and nature of offences/events;
  • The seriousness;
  • When/where the event took place;
  • Any mitigating circumstances;
  • Conduct since the event.

 

What health issues concern the HCPC?

The HCPC is not concerned with registrants being ‘unhealthy’ in general terms, but rather if registrants have health conditions or a disability which may impact on their fitness to practise, such as an inability to manage a condition appropriately.

How will the HCPC consider health issues?

Each situation is examined individually. The HCPC want to see that registrants have insight and understanding into their own health. They also want to assess the impact of the registrant’s health on their ability to practise safely and effectively. A registrant needs to demonstrate that they have a realistic and informed idea of any limitations on their ability to practise without placing service users or themselves at risk and that they can adapt their practices where necessary to minimise any risks.
The HCPC will consider factors such as:

  • How you are managing your own condition;
  • If you have demonstrated insight and understanding into your condition;
  • If you have appropriate medical or other support in place;
  • What reasonable adjustments have been made to your employment conditions.

When considering a health issue the HCPC will want to consider a medical report, which you will be asked to consent to.

Fitness to practise proceedings regarding health issues, usually occur when a registrant has continued to practise whilst being unfit, which really calls into question their fitness to practise arising out of their conduct, as opposed to the specific issue regarding their health or disability.

What process will the HCPC follow regarding a disclosure about my health or character?

The HCPC will evaluate the information disclosed to them and will decide if the issues raised could affect your fitness to practise.
If they don’t consider the issues may affect your fitness to practise, they will write to you accordingly and won’t take any further action.
If they do consider that the issues may impact on your fitness to practise, they will investigate the situation further. They may refer you to their fitness to practise process, in which case an Investigating Committee will meet to decide if there is a case for you to answer and if so, if you should then be considered at a full hearing by a Conduct and Competence Committee or a Health Committee.

How we can help.

Lawyers at the Medic Assistance Scheme are experienced in representing registrants of the HCPC in relation to a variety of health and character issues, including HCPC fitness to practise proceedings. We have prepared self referral disclosures, written representations for Investigating Committees and have represented registrants before Conduct and Competence Committees.

If you would like to discuss your position with one of our expert lawyers, then please contact us for specialist legal advice which is always given in the strictest of confidence.

Marie Dancer

Written by Marie Dancer

Since joining Richard Nelson LLP in 2003, Marie Dancer became a Partner in 2009 before becoming the Managing Partner in 2015. Marie is a highly regarded professional disciplinary lawyer who defends a variety of healthcare and teaching professionals in fitness to practise investigations.

Read more about Marie Dancer.

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