A nervous disposition
What is the HCPTS?
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is a statutory regulator tasked with, amongst other functions, investigating complaints about registrants from the 16 professions that it regulates and taking appropriate action.
As of 28 April 2017, the adjudication of fitness to practise hearings will be delivered by the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service. This is a newly created service and still part of the HCPC who will retain responsibility for the investigation of ftp complaints.
As the name suggests, the HCPTS is not organisationally separate to the HCPC, but, by setting up this new, distinct, adjudication arm, the HCPC is reinforcing the role separation and highlighting that the adjudication of fitness to practise allegations will be undertaken at arm’s length.
As a result, the Panels that hear and determine cases on behalf of the HCPC’s three Practice Committees (the Investigating Committee, Conduct and Competence Committee and Health Committee), will now be part of the HCPTS; becoming the Health and Care Professions Tribunal (the “Tribunal”). This will be supported by the Tribunal Service Team, an operational team, who will deal with scheduling hearings and publishing tribunal decisions.
There is also a new Tribunal Advisory Committee (TAC), a non-statutory committee of the HCPC, to advise the HCPC on the recruitment, training and assessment of panellists, panel chairs and legal assessors. The TAC will also provide guidance to the Tribunal on practice and procedure. The TAC is comprised of 3 Tribunal Panel Chairs and 3 members who are independent of the Tribunal; making it independent of the HCPC.
What has prompted the change?
The change is part of a move by government to encourage greater separation between the investigation and adjudication functions of regulatory bodies. It is important that regulatory bodies are, and are seen to be, fair and impartial when making decisions concerning a registrant’s fitness to practise.
The HCPC are the second regulator to separate these two functions, following the General Medical Council’s launch of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.
What does the change mean?
The move is unlikely to result in much practical change.
For registrants, witnesses and representatives, the change is mostly administrative; queries concerning the hearings must now be directed to the HCPTS, rather than the HCPC.
Additionally, the HCPC have been keen to stress that, since it was established, it has always maintained a high degree of functional separation within the fitness to practise department and, in fact, scheduling and organising hearings has always been dealt with by a discreet team.
However, it is significant in showing the HCPC’s commitment to ensuring that decisions reached at hearing are fair and impartial and seeks to reassure registrants, and the general public, that the Panel considering allegations against registrants are separate from those who investigated the matter.
More information on the HCPTS can be found on the new HCPTS website at: https://www.hcpts-uk.org/
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