How does Fitness to Practise work?

Preliminary Stage
  1. What happens when CORU receives a complaint?
  2. What happens next?
  3. What can Council do if the Preliminary Proceedings Committee has formed the opinion that no further action is required?
  4. What is Mediation?

Hearing Stage
  1. Who decides if a complaint goes to a hearing?
  2. What happens if the complaint requires further action?
  3. Who hears a complaint?
  4. Are hearings in public or private?
  5. What happens at a hearing?
  6. Who is the Legal Assessor?
  7. What does the stenographer do?

Sanction Stage
  1. What powers do the Council have?
  2. How will a sanction be imposed?
  3. Who will CORU inform if a sanction is imposed?
  4. Can a registrant make submissions at sanction stage?
  5. Can a registrant appeal a decision of the Committees of Inquiry?
  6. How long does the process take?

Preliminary Stage

What happens when CORU receives a complaint?

A complaint must be made in writing or in any other form acceptable to CORU.

Once CORU has the complaint, we will:

  • write to the person who made the complaint (the complainant) to tell them we have their complaint; and
  • write to the registrant to explain the nature of the complaint and to tell him or her who the complainant is.

The complaint will be considered by the Preliminary Proceedings Committee. This Committee may ask the complainant or the registrant to provide information they think is relevant to the case.

The Preliminary Proceedings Committee will then review the information and consider if the complaint is:

  • trivial, or
  • vexatious, or
  • without substance, or
  • made in bad faith.
What happens next?

When the Preliminary Proceedings Committee has considered all the information it has it will form an opinion as to whether further action is required.

It may form the opinion that no further action is required and will tell the Health and Social Care Professionals Council (Council) this.

If the Preliminary Proceedings Committee believes that further action is required it will decide whether the complaint is suitable for mediation or refer it to a Committee of Inquiry.

What can Council do if the Preliminary Proceedings Committee has formed the opinion that no further action is required?

Council may:

  • agree that no further action is to be taken; or
  • disagree and direct further action to be taken.

If Council decides that no further action is to be taken, we will let the registrant and the complainant know. The Registration Board concerned will also be told.

If Council directs that further action should be taken, Council will send the complaint back to the Preliminary Proceedings Committee. The Preliminary Proceedings Committee will decide what happens next.

What is Mediation?

The Preliminary Proceedings Committee can decide to refer the matter for resolution by mediation. Mediation is a process where the registrant and the person who raised the complaint agree to meet with a neutral third person called a mediator who will help to resolve the complaint.

No attempt can be made to resolve a complaint by mediation unless both the registrant and the person who made the complaint consent.

If a complaint can’t be resolved by mediation the matter goes to a hearing.

Hearing Stage

Who decides if a complaint goes to a hearing?

The Preliminary Proceedings Committee may decide to refer a complaint to a Committee of Inquiry for a hearing. A hearing is similar to a hearing before a Court or Tribunal.

What happens if the complaint requires further action?

If the matter requires further action and is not suitable for mediation or there’s no consent to mediation, the complaint will go before a Committee of Inquiry. This may be a Professional Conduct Committee or a Health Committee.

The Professional Conduct Committee or the Health Committee will decide if an allegation is proven.

Who hears a complaint?

A Committee of Inquiry will hear the complaint.

The Committee of Inquiry (the Professional Conduct Committee or the Health Committee – depending on the nature of the complaint) will be made up of three people: one registrant from the same profession as the registrant against whom the complaint is made, one registrant from another profession and one non-registrant. Our hearings are similar to hearings before a Court or Tribunal.

A Professional Conduct Committee deals with complaints about a registrant’s conduct or competence. A Health Committee inquires into whether or not a registrant’s health is affecting his or her ability to practice.

Are hearings in public or private?

Professional Conduct Committee hearings are normally held in public. This means that members of the public, including journalists, can attend. 

A Professional Conduct Committee hearing may be held in private:

  • if requested by the registrant or the complainant, and
  • if the Committee is satisfied that it would be appropriate given the circumstances.

A witness attending the hearing to give evidence can also apply to hold some of the hearing in private.

Health Committee hearings are normally held in private. The registrant or the complainant can request that all or part of the hearing be held in public. If the Committee is satisfied that it would be appropriate given the circumstances, they can approve the request.

What happens at a hearing?

The Registrar of the Registration Board will open the hearing by presenting the evidence and calling witnesses (including the person who made the complaint) to give evidence.

The Registrar may use a representative to carry out this function. The registrant or his or her representative may question any of the witnesses. The Committee may also ask questions of the witnesses.

After the Registrar of the Registration Board has completed presenting the case to the Committee, the registrant or his or her representative may call witnesses or make statements to the Committee.

When the hearing is over, the Committee will usually leave the room to decide if the allegation has been proven.  Once the Committee decides, they will return to the room to give their findings. However, the Committee may decide to adjourn to another day to allow it more time to consider the complaint. If this happens you will be informed of the date when the Committee will give its decision. The Committee will then write a report setting out its findings and explaining its reasons.

Who is the Legal Assessor?

A legal advisor (known as a legal assessor) will sit with the Committee. The role of the Legal Assessor is to provide the Committee with independent legal advice.

The Legal Assessor plays no part in the decision making process.

What does the stenographer do?

A stenographer will be present to record all evidence. They can produce a written record of everything said throughout the hearing.

Sanction Stage

What powers do the Council have?

If the Committee of Inquiry finds that the complaint has been proven, Council will provide the report from the Committee of Inquiry to the Registration Board. The Registration Board may recommend that one or more of the sanctions listed below are imposed.

a. Admonishment or censure
b. Attachment of conditions to the registrant’s registration, including restrictions on the practice of the designated profession by the registrant
c. Suspension of the registrant’s registration for a specified period
d. Cancellation of the registrant’s registration
e. Prohibition from applying for a specified period for the restoration of the registrant’s registration.

How will a sanction be imposed?

Council will decide on the sanction to be imposed and will direct the Registration Board to impose the sanction. It will then apply to the High Court to confirm the direction to impose the sanction (b to e), unless the registrant has challenged the direction in the High Court. If Council decides that admonishment or censure is appropriate then it is not necessary for an application to be made to the High Court.  

Who will CORU inform if a sanction is imposed?

If a sanction is imposed, CORU must notify the Minister for Health and the registrant’s employer (if known) of the sanctions imposed on the registrant. In some circumstances CORU may advise the public of the sanctions being imposed on a registrant.

Can a registrant make submissions at sanction stage?

Yes. A registrant is entitled to make submissions to Council before it decides on its direction to the Registration Board.

In deciding what sanction to impose, Council considers:

  • the recommendation of the Registration Board on sanction
  • the registrant’s submissions to Council.
Can a registrant appeal a decision of the Committees of Inquiry?

If Council wishes to direct conditions, suspension or cancellation of registration, the registrant will have the right to apply to the High Court to challenge that direction.

How long does the process take?

Registrants and Complainants can find the Fitness to Practise process stressful, so we will try and deal with the complaint as quickly as we can.

The length of the process will vary depending on the nature of the complaint made and how complicated the issues are.