Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Lawyers Glasgow
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is a UK-wide body that was set up to protect the public by ensuring health and care professionals are fit to practise, i.e. they have the knowledge and skills to practise their profession safely and effectively. The HCPC delivers this important function in two key ways. First, they keep and maintain a register of professionals (also known as registrants) who are allowed to practise because they meet the professional, health, behaviour and training standards required of them. Secondly, they impose sanctions on, or remove from the register, individuals who fail to meet these standards. They do this through a fitness to practise process.
Below we provide a brief overview of the HCPC and explain what can be involved in HCPC fitness to practise proceedings. If you require expert advice and assistance on a professional regulation or fitness to practise issue, no matter the stage of the process, please contact our specialist lawyers. We will provide the legal support you need to protect your reputation and livelihood.
Which professions are regulated by the HCPC?
The HCPC currently regulates the following 16 professions:
- Arts therapists
- Biomedical scientists
- Clinical scientists
- Hearing aid dispensers
- Occupational therapists
- Operating department practitioners
- Practitioner psychologists
- Prosthetists / orthotists
- Speech and language therapists
- Social workers in England – people who work in social services in Scotland are regulated by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC), which you can read about here
The HCPC is under the broad obligation to establish and keep under review the standards of conduct, performance and ethics expected of these professionals. It must also investigate allegations that a registrant’s fitness to practice is impaired. This involves assessing whether concerns about a registrant, usually raised by service users, members of the public or colleagues, warrant further inquiry, and if so, opening a case and commencing an investigation.
What complaints will the HCPC investigate?
The HCPC will investigate any allegation of misconduct, such as an improper relationship with a service user, or lack of competence, such as persistently failing to meet standards. It will also investigate whether fitness to practise is impaired because of physical or mental health problems that may affect the safety of service users, or following a conviction or caution for a criminal offence, especially those involving violent behaviour or sexual indecency.
What is the HCPC investigation process?
Once the HCPC receives a concern or complaint, it has the right to require the disclosure of any relevant information about the registrant and circumstances surrounding a complaint. Both the information gathered and a draft of the allegation will be sent to the registrant, who is given 28 days to respond. After this period, the Investigating Committee Panel, usually made up of three people (including one professional and a lay person), meets in private to examine whether the allegation is likely to be proved.
The Investigating Committee Panel has three options open to it. It can decide that there is no case to answer and the matter isn’t taken any further, it can decide that more information is needed or it can decide there is a case to answer. If the latter, the case will be passed to another Panel for a final hearing. There is no right of appeal against an Investigating Committee Panel decision, although it may be possible to apply for a judicial review if the processes leading to the decision were unlawful.
What happens at a HCPC final hearing?
Before the case reaches a final hearing, the HCPC’s solicitors will prepare the case and provide relevant details and information to the registrant. The solicitors are also likely to contact the registrant for a formal statement. At the final hearing, the Panel will hear from the HCPC’s solicitor, the registrant and their solicitor, and any other relevant witness. On the basis of the evidence and what is said at the hearing, the Panel will then decide whether the allegation is proven and the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired. If it is found to be impaired, they will decide what sanction, if any, should be imposed, taking into account a whole range of factors, including the registrant’s conduct and behaviour, and whether they have insight into any harm they have caused.
What sanctions can the HCPC impose?
The final hearing Panel has various powers at its disposal once it’s made its decision. It can order:
- No further action
- Mediation – a consensual process for resolving an issue between the registrant and another party
- Caution – a caution does not restrict a registrant’s ability to practise but it does appear on the register for between one and five years, and may be taken into account if a further allegation is made
- Conditions of practice – these restrict a registrant’s practice and/or require remedial action for a specified period not exceeding three years
- Suspension – the registrant is completely prohibit from practising their profession for a specified period not exceeding one year
- Striking off – this is the most serious sanction, whereby the registrant is permanently prohibited from practising
Is there a right of appeal?
It is possible to appeal the final hearing Panel’s decision to the Court of Session if there is evidence that the decision was wrong or the sanction unfair.
Can I get any help with legal fees?
Union members are usually only entitled to advice from a solicitor of the union's choice, although in some cases the registrant can obtain funding for specialist representation. Many home and car insurance policies now offer "legal cover" which means legal fees will be met for pursuing a case by the insurance company. If the registrant is on a low wage or not working, some funding through Legal Aid may be available, although this will depend on circumstances and is not available for representation at hearings.
If I can’t get any help, what will I have to pay?
Initial advice on an active investigation tends to cost £400-£600, depending on the history and amount of paperwork. Fee quotations will always be given in writing before any work starts. An initial payment of £200 is required at the outset, and we can allow invoices to be paid up over a period of months. However, there is no charge at all for us responding to your initial telephone or e-mail inquiry.
Contact our Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Lawyers Glasgow
The Glasgow Law Practice regularly helps health and care professionals handle allegations concerning their fitness to practice. We offer fixed-rate packages, so you know exactly how much you will pay at the outset. For more information, please call our Professional Regulation specialist solicitors on 01415529193 or alternatively, please complete our online enquiry form and one of our solicitors will be in touch.