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Approach to fitness to practise hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic

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This statement sets out how we will undertake fitness to practise hearings in this period, as well as the changes we have introduced to our usual fitness to practise processes.

Service of notices and sending correspondence

The Health Professions Order 2001 (the Order) and Panel rules requires the HCPC to serve notice of fitness to practice proceedings on registrants by post*.

In line with current UK government advice to work from home, we are no longer accessing our offices in Kennington, London. As such, it is no longer practicable for us to follow our previous processes for the service of notices by post in all circumstances. In order to be able to continue core fitness to practise activity as described in this statement service of notices will be done electronically. From Monday 23 March 2020, all notices, correspondence and documentation will be sent to registrants by email, to the email address they have registered with us. The only exception to this is Notices of Allegation, which will be sent by post and email.

It is therefore essential that registrants ensure that their registered email address is up to date. This can be done by logging into their MyHCPC account.  

Where we do not have an email address for a registrant we will contact the registrant to obtain one. In exceptional circumstances where a registrant does not have, or we cannot obtain, an email address we will serve notices, correspondence and documents by post using a third party provider.

Where a registrant has a nominated representative we will also serve documents by email to that representative.

We recognise that registrants may encounter challenges to obtaining representation and/or to providing their submissions to any of our practice committees within the usual statutory timeframes. Where a registrant requires additional time to provide their submissions they should contact the fitness to practise department on the email address below as soon as possible. We will consider each request for an extension of time on a case by case basis, taking into account the current circumstances affecting each registrant.

We will correspond with other parties by email only. Where parties to a case cannot correspond by email and reasonable adjustments to communicating with the HCPC have been made these will continue. 

 

Investigating Committee Panels

Investigating Committee Panels will continue as usual, though these will be held remotely rather than at our offices in London.

 

Fitness to practise hearings

The current pandemic necessitates that hearings should be undertaken in such a way as to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19, avoid any unnecessary delays and ensure that public protection is upheld. Therefore, unless there are exceptional circumstances, the HCPC will list all hearing matters to take place remotely.
A remote hearing (sometimes referred to as a virtual hearing) is a hearing held by telephone or video link.

The Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service have published a Remote Hearings Protocol, which sets out in detail our approach to holding remote hearings. It also explains what may happen if a party to a case disagrees with the holding of a remote hearing. A copy of the protocol can be found here.

Any decision to recommence physical hearings will be made in line with the latest guidance issued by the UK government and Public Health England.

We recognise that being involved in a fitness to practise hearing can be stressful for our registrants, and that being involved in a hearing at this time may cause additional anxiety. Information about the help and support available to registrants can be found here.

 

Contacting the Fitness to Practise department and the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service

Due to the temporary closure of our offices we are unable to answer telephone enquiries. Our ability to receive and process incoming mail is also limited and we will not be able to acknowledge receipt of documents sent by post or respond to postal queries within our usual service standard. We request that new referrals, correspondence or other documents are sent by email wherever possible. Please let us know if you require any reasonable adjustments to support you in contacting the HCPC and we will work with you to accommodate these.

The fitness to practise department can be contacted at ftp@hcpc-uk.org.

The Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service can be contacted at tsteam@hcpts-uk.org.

Support and guidance for our registrants during the COVID-19 pandemic is available in the COVID-19 hub on our website. 

 

The HCPC will keep this approach under regular review.

Next review due by: 31 August 2020

*HCPC (Investigating Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003; HCPC (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003; HCPC (Health Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003.
 
Version 5. 27 July 2020

 

Support

We appreciate going through this process can be an anxious experience and any delays can add to this. Please be assured that we will do everything we can to progress cases given the exceptional circumstances.

If you require any support please see our list of contacts who may be able to assist.