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Fitness to practise (conduct)
How will you look at concerns raised about a social workers practise?
When we look at concerns raised about registrants, we use a ‘fitness to practise model’. Under the fitness to practise model, we consider whether someone’s ability to practise safely and effectively is impaired because of misconduct, a lack of competence, or their health. We appoint panels to look at concerns raised about registrants. A panel which looks at a concern about a social worker would always include at least one social worker as well as a lay person.
The GSCC considered complaints against social workers in England using a ‘conduct model’. A conduct model focuses on whether the registrant’s behaviour or actions were a breach of the code of conduct and as a result whether a sanction should be imposed.
There are therefore several differences between the ‘conduct model’ and one based on ‘fitness to practise’. For example, we are able to consider concerns which arise about a social worker’s competence. In addition, when we decide whether a social worker’s fitness to practise is impaired, we look at the current situation and make a decision about whether we need to take action. The process is not designed to punish registrants for past mistakes but to protect the public from those who are not fit to practise. If it is found that a registrant's fitness to practise is impaired then a sanction can be imposed.
The table below sets out the core legislative differences in how the HPC deal with cases compared to how the GSCC deal with cases.
|Impaired Fitness to Practise
||HPC’s legislative framework provides that in considering an allegation, a panel first of all determines whether the facts as alleged occurred, whether those facts amount to one of the grounds of allegation set out in the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, and whether subsequently, that amounts to the registrant’s fitness to practise being impaired. The GSCC’s legislative framework does not provide for the final part of the test|
|Six grounds of allegation
||One ground of allegation
||HPC’s legislation provides that a registrant’s fitness to practise can be found to be impaired by reason of their|
- Lack of competence
- Conviction or caution
- Determination by another regulator
- Inclusion in a barred lists
- Caution order
- Conditions of practice order
- Suspension order
- Striking off order
- Suspension Order
- Removal Order
|A caution order and an admonishment order have equivalent status to each other, as does a striking off order and a removal order. HPC are obliged to review suspension orders before they are expire whereas the GSCC are not able to. HPC panels can also impose a conditions of practice order on a registrant once it is determined that that registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired. The GSCC are unable to do this.|
|Powers to demand the production of information
||No powers to demand information
||Our legislation provides that we the powers to demand the production of information if it is relevant to a fitness to practise case. A failure to comply with such a request is a criminal offence. The GSCC do not have similar powers. |
There is more information about the fitness to practise process here .
How will HCPC deal with the increasing volume of cases that will occur as a result of regulating social workers in England?
In order to ensure we can effectively and efficiently manage open cases that are transferred to us from the General Social Care Council and to deal with new cases that we receive once we are the regulator for social workers in England, we have undertaken a comprehensive resource analysis to ensure we can manage that case load and the case load associated with our existing 15 professions. In 2012-13 our Fitness to Practise Department will increase in size from 45 employees to 68. We have also implemented a new case management system which went live on 2 April 2012. Amongst other things, this system has provided us with improved tracking mechanisms and case management tools.
How is HPC planning to deal with the open GSCC cases?
Our Council considered and approved at its meeting on 29 March 2012, the approach that we will take to dealing with cases that open at the point of transfer. A copy of that paper can be found at http://www.hcpc-uk.org/assets/documents/100039CFenc19-GSCC-HPCtransfer.pdf The approach we will take is as follows:
A person who is suspended from the GSCC Register
The case will be referred to a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee or Health Committee and reviewed in accordance with Article 30 of the Order as if the suspension was a suspension order imposed by one of those Committees.
A person who is subject to an on-going complaint but where the case has not been concluded by the GSCC
In cases where a GSCC hearing was started but not concluded, the case will be reviewed to determine whether it would be appropriate for it to be concluded by a HCPC Practice Committee Panel. There will be a presumption in favour of doing so, but subject to review of the evidence and the overall viability of the case, including the prospects of fitness to practise being found to be impaired.
In all other cases, an assessment will be undertaken to determine whether the case meets the HCPC standard of acceptance for allegations. Where that standard is met, the case will be referred to the Investigating Committee to determine whether there is a case to answer.
Cases where an interim suspension order has been imposed by the GSCC
The order will be reviewed in accordance with Article 31 of the Order as if it was an order which had been imposed by a HCPC Practice Committee Panel.
We are taking this approach because the GSCC does not operate a fitness to practise processes but due to its legislative framework, considers whether a registrant has committed misconduct. Our processes require us to consider whether a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired as a result of:
- a conviction or caution
- lack of competence
- determination by another regulator
We also have the power to impose conditions of practice on a registrant following a fitness to practise hearing which the GSCC does not. We are also obliged to review suspension and conditions of practice orders before they expire.
In considering transfer cases, we will also pay regard to just disposal criteria which are currently under development and due to be considered by our Council at its meeting in July 2012. Our website will be updated with this criteria after the meeting.
Why are cases concerning social workers in England now being dealt with by the High Court rather than the First Tier Tribunal?
The Health and Social Care Act provides that social workers in England will be regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council. Appeals by registrants against decisions of fitness to practise panels are made to the High Court (the Court of Sheriff in Scotland) and the same provision will apply to social workers in England?
However, our legislation also provides that an appeal against a registration decision (for instance, to refuse admission, readmission or renewal to the register), is made in the first instance to the HCPC Council.
In cases where the GSCC suspended a registrant, will the HPC review the case when the GSCC had no power to do so?
Our legislation provides that we must review a suspension order (and for that matter a conditions of practice order) imposed by a panel before it expires. When reviewing such orders, we will look for evidence to satisfy us that the issues that led to the original order have been addressed and the registrant concerned no longer poses a risk to the public.
What code of conduct will apply?
In considering cases where the allegation relates to a breach of the GSCC’s code of conduct, the case will decided based upon that code.
How will HPC deal with transferring GSCC registrants whose registration is subject to conditional registration?
The GSCC were able to place conditional registration on registration, renewal of registration or through restoration to the register. The HPC have no equivalent process although are able to impose conditions of practice on a registrant following a fitness to practise hearing.
In cases where a transferring registrant is subject to conditional registration, we will review each case to determine whether those conditions should remain in force.
How will HPC deal with registrants whose registration is subject to an admonishment?
If a transferring GSCC registrant is subject to an admonishment order on 1 August 2012, that registrant will be treated as if they were subject to a caution order and the register marked accordingly. That order will have the same duration as the admonishment order imposed by the GSCC.
How will HPC deal with registrants whose registration is suspended (as a result of a conduct process)?
If a transferring GSCC registrant is subject to a suspension order, that will be marked on the HCPC register and we will review that order before it expires.
What will the HPC’s process be for dealing with registrants who have been removed (via a conduct process) from the GSCC register?
If a former GSCC registrant, who has been removed from the GSCC’s Register via a conduct process, applies to be restored to the Register maintained by the HCPC, they can only apply for restoration if three years have elapsed from the date of the decision to remove them from the GSCC register. All other HCPC processes will then apply.