Press Round-Up: Regulatory and Professional Discipline – December 2014 - January 2015

29 January 2015

Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

  • The HCPC has published their eleventh Fitness to practice Annual Report, providing information about their work in considering allegations about the fitness to practise of registrants. In the period from 01 April 2013 to 31 March 2014, 2,069 new concerns were raised, an increase of 25 per cent on the previous year. The number of fitness to practise cases remained relatively low in comparison to the size of the Register, with only 0.64 per cent of registrants (1 in 160) made the subject of a new concern.  A Fitness to practise - key information document has been published in conjunction with the report to include key statistics in relation to the cases and information about how fitness to practice panels deal with concerns.
  • The HCPC has welcomed the publication of the report from the Burstow Commission on the future of the home care workforce, “Key to Care”. The report recommends that the government enact a suitability scheme for the regulation of the adult social care workforce in England, as proposed by the HCPC. The HCPC’s proposal comprises three elements:
  1. A statutory code that articulates the requirements for honesty integrity and respect;
  2. An adjudication process that can hold individuals to account; and
  3. A public access register of those not fit to work as carers.

General Medical Council (GMC)

The GMC is to review its treatment of vulnerable doctors who have been made subject to fitness to practice investigations following the publication of an independent review it commissioned. The review, by Sarndrah Horsfall, the former Chief Executive of the National Patient Safety Agency, covered the period between 2005 and 2013 and was published on 19 December 2014. It aimed to establish whether the GMC’s fitness to practice procedures could be improved to reduce their impact on vulnerable doctors. The report made a number of recommendations for further reducing the impact of investigations on doctors who have health problems. These recommendations include:

  1. Appointing a senior medical officer within the GMC to be responsible for overseeing health cases;
  2. Ensuring that every doctor should feel they are treated as ‘innocent until proven guilty’; and
  3. The establishment of a National Support Service for doctors.
  • From 1 April 2015, the length of time doctors will be allowed to hold provisional registration will be limited to a maximum of three years and 30 days (1125 days in total), following which their provisional registration will expire. The GMC had introduced this measure to minimise the risk of doctors working outside the scope of registration and to ensure doctors are appropriately supported and supervised.  The GMC will write to all provisionally registered doctors in January 2015 to inform them of these new rules and how they could be affected by them.
  • A GMC survey of the 50,000 doctors in training found nearly one in ten reporting that they had been bullied, while nearly one in seven said they had witnessed bullying in the workplace. While the survey shows that systems are generally working well, it suggests there are still areas that need to be improved. The GMC further consulted on what action it should take against doctors who bully or undermine others. The results of the consultation will be published in February 2015.

General Dental Council (GDC)

  • The GDC are currently consulting on a change to their legislation which would allow them to change the way they deal with FtP concerns. This includes the proposed introduction of “case examiners’ who would be in a position to make certain decisions about a case earlier in the process, in the hope that they will potentially reduce the number of cases that proceed to a full hearing. The changes are hoped to help reduce costs by up to £2 million a year.
  • In January 2015, the GDC launched a pilot scheme which aims to ensure that concerns about a dentist’s performance are handled where appropriate by the local NHS in England, rather than by the GDC. Currently both the GDC and the NHS have powers to take action against dentists where there are concerns about their performance. The GDC are seeking to ensure that there is an early dialogue between the GDC and the NHS, which manages the contracts offered to dentists, to ensure that the GDC deals only with fitness to practise cases whilst the NHS deals with other issues of performance management.   The pilot, which begins this month, will involve the GDC working with 5 NHS England Local Area Teams (LATs) over 12 months. 
  • The GDC has consulted on new draft statutory rules regarding registrants’ indemnity arrangements.  The proposed rules cover the information that dentists and dental care professionals applying for registration or restoration, or seeking to renew their registration, will need to provide to the GDC about their indemnity arrangements. The consultation closed on 09 January 2015.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

  • On 15 January 2015 the NMC launched a consultation to remove time limits for the completion of education programmes. Currently, student nurses and midwives are required to finish full-time programmes within five years and part-time programmes within seven years in order to be eligible for registration with the NMC.  The NMC has proposed removing the maximum time limits from the NMC standards, while ensuring full responsibility for the management of education programmes lies with approved education institutions. The consultation will take place between 15 January 2015 and 12 March 2015.
  • On 3rd December 2014, the NMC Council met and approved revised content for the Code of Conduct, which will be published in early 2015. There are significant changes in the most recent version, including a new section about the responsible use of all forms of communications – for example social media – and the re-instatement of a previous requirement for nurses and midwives to intervene if an emergency occurs outside their place.

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)

  • The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has published a report which provides further analysis of those trainees who reported having been dissatisfied with their pre-registration training experience as part of a 2013 survey they took part in. The 2013 survey indicated that while the majority of pre -registration trainees rated the overall quality of their training as very good or good (77%), 11 per cent of trainees rated the overall quality of their training year as poor or very poor.  Key findings include:
  1. Most dissatisfied trainees are from an Asian or other ethnic group background
  2. Most dissatisfied trainees undertook their training in community pharmacy
  3. More dissatisfied trainees were in London
  4. There were more dissatisfied trainees over 30 than under
  • The GPhC has launched a discussion paper which describes important proposed changes to the guidance which fitness to practise committees must use in reaching decisions. The discussion paper seeks views on a number of areas where the governing council believes committees would benefit from more guidance when making a decision on sanction. In particular, the GPhC is seeking views on  issues such as sexual misconduct, dishonesty, raising concerns and failures to be open and honest – often referred to as the professional duty of candour, by pharmacy professionals.  A draft indicative sanctions and guidance document we will be consulted upon in early 2015.

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

  • The SRA have launched a new research project into innovation in the legal services market, in partnership with the Legal Services Board. The research will explore the reasons for innovation in business practice, such as in service delivery or business models, rather than legal practice innovation. It will investigate the impact of competition on the development of new business approaches, how well innovative change serves the needs of people using the services and the barriers to greater innovation.
  • The SRA published its Annual Review for 2013/14, on 11 December 2013, which sets out their progress against their strategic objectives for the past 12 months.

Bar Standards Board (BSB)

  • On 02 December 2014 the Legal Services Board approved the BSB’s application to become an entity regulator. The BSB set out its fee structure for barristers and other lawyers who want to form entities under its regulatory regime. Research published in summer 2014 by the BSB and the Bar Council showed there to be a clear interest across the Bar in setting up or becoming part of an entity:
  1. 34% of family barristers and 26% of criminal barristers had definite or possible intentions to become involved in an entity with only barristers as owners and managers;
  2. 26% of criminal barristers and 23% of family barristers had definite or potential plans regarding entities with barristers and other lawyers as owners and managers; and
  3. 18% of criminal barristers and 17% of family barristers had definite or potential plans regarding entities with barristers, other lawyers and lay people as owners and managers.
  • From 5 January 2015, the BSB will accept applications from those wishing to set up BSB-regulated businesses ("entities"), owned and managed by lawyers, which provide "reserved legal activities”. The BSB is due to begin authorising applications in April 2015. Thus far the majority of applicants are prospective "single person entities". Almost half were from the Greater London region, around a third from either Birmingham, Manchester, or Nottingham, and the rest were spread across England. The BSB is not yet proposing to authorise Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) - entities with non-lawyer owners and managers - but will in 2015 apply separately to the Legal Services Board to become a licensing authority of ABSs.
  • The BSB has completed a survey for self-employed barristers and their clerks to provide information about the basis on which they are being instructed. The survey was part of the BSB's recently launched review of standard contractual terms and the cab rank rule, which began with a call for evidence on 10 October 2014. The aim of the survey was to gather evidence on the contractual basis on which barristers are being instructed and the frequency and basis on which the cab rank rule is being invoked. The survey closed on 12 January 2015.

*all information correct at time of publication and can be found on the individual regulator’s websites.

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