Press Round-Up: Regulatory and Professional Discipline August - September 2020

29 September 2020

A Regulatory press round-up for August - September 2020.

Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

On 2nd September 2020, the HCPC adapted its rules for former Registrants returning to practice. The HCPC said:

“Applicants will still need to evidence their ability to meet our standards, however we will provide flexibility on alternative forms of ‘formal study’ and what type of evidence we accept as proof of ‘supervised practice’.

We are also temporarily extending the timescales from the usual 12 months to 24 months to enable more time for returnees to complete their period of updating.”

You can find out more about returning to practice here

On 11th September 2020, the HCPC reported that it has responded to Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee consultation on workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care. The HCPC said its key recommendation was:

“Delivering real cultural change across all levels of management within the NHS; reducing inappropriate expectations of staff and ensuring they feel genuinely valued and listened to will take significant investment, resources and sustained focus.”

You can read the HCPC’s full summary here

On 21st September 2020, the HCPC reported that the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) is consulting on a new Complaints Standards Framework for NHS organisations and staff. The PHSO is seeking to address the lack of a standard complaints framework in the NHS setting.

The HCPC said:

“The key aims of the new framework are for:

  • Senior leaders to promote a learning and improvement culture;
  • Staff to be trained to seek feedback from service users and ensure individuals can provide feedback easily;
  • Staff to be trained to carry out a detailed look which is thorough, empathetic, objective, evidence based and supported; and
  • Staff to provide clear and accountable decisions.”

The HCPC said that while it is supportive of the new framework, it would like the PHSO to recognise the challenges of Covid-19 in rolling out these standards.

You can see the HCPC’s full update here


Financial Reporting Council (FRC)

On 24th September 2020, the FRC published two reviews into the reporting of revenue and leases identifying areas where companies need to improve their reporting.

In relation to revenue from contracts with customers, the FRC said:

“In particular, the FRC expects companies to:

  • provide clear descriptions of performance obligations, the timing of revenue recognition and explanations of any significant judgements made by management;
  • identify, and explain significant movements in, contract balances;
  • ensure there is consistency between revenue-related information in the strategic report and information in the financial statements, including, for example, details about significant contracts and disclosures of disaggregated revenue; and
  • specify the types of any variable consideration that exist within contracts and how they are both estimated and constrained.”

In relation to leases, the FRC said:

“The FRC expects companies to:

  • tailor the descriptions of their leasing accounting policies to match their particular circumstances and to cover all material areas;
  • provide detailed information about the significant judgements affecting their accounting for leases; and
  • include sufficient detail to enable a good understanding of the financial reporting effects of their leasing arrangements on their financial position, financial performance and cash flows.”

Links to the two reviews can be found here and here.


General Medical Council (GMC)

On 14th September 2020, the GMC issued guidance for its staff on how to take the context created by Covid-19 into account when considering complaints about doctors. The GMC said:

“It means that, in line with the GMC’s normal practice, concerns about doctors will be considered in the context of the pandemic and, in certain circumstances and where there are no risks to patients or to public confidence, some issues might not put into question a doctor’s fitness to practice.

Examples could include concerns about clinical treatment where guidelines were unclear, or a doctor working outside their usual area of practice with limited or no support or guidance to do so safely. There would also need to be no risk to future patients.”

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said:

“During this challenging time, doctors of course still have a duty to provide the best and safest care they can in the circumstances. When we consider concerns raised about doctors, we always review the circumstances and context of the case to decide whether they pose a future risk to patients and whether their fitness to practise is impaired.”

You can access the guidance here.


General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)

On 25th August, the GPhC responded to a letter from the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) regarding concerns that community pharmacy employers may be failing to report to the Health and Safety Executive instances of exposure to Covid-19 in workplaces. The GPhC said:

“In our response, we emphasise that we expect pharmacy owners to keep up to date with and follow relevant guidance produced by other authorities such as the HSE, to help ensure that they are meeting their legal responsibilities, including in relation to reporting instances of exposure to Covid-19 in the workplace.” 

You can read the full response to the PDA here.

On 23rd September 2020, the GPhC updated its guidance on managing fitness to practice concerns in pharmacy education and training.

The GPhC said:

“Previously the guidance only applied to schools of pharmacy, but now applies to all providers of education and training that lead to pharmacy professional registration, including courses for pharmacy technicians.

The revised guidance places greater emphasis on the support education and training providers should offer to supporting students and trainees with disabilities or other physical or mental health conditions.

The revised guidance also describes how concerns about behaviour, conduct or health should be shared when more than one organisation is involved in education and training.”

Duncan Rudkin, GPhC Chief Executive, said:

“This revised guidance will help education and training providers to develop and apply consistent procedures when concerns are raised about a student or trainee. It will also help students and trainees understand the importance of professionalism and fitness to practise.”

You can access the full guidance here.


Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

On 2nd September 2020, the NMC set out that it will resume in-person Fitness to Practise hearings from 14th September 2020.

The NMC said:

“Safety measures have been introduced to ensure the wellbeing of those attending physical hearings in both London and Edinburgh is protected at all times. For example, some of these measures will include staggered start times for hearings, one-way systems throughout the building, screen partitions in hearing rooms, and enhanced cleaning arrangements.

We will consider the view of the hearing participants and the complexity of the case when deciding whether to hold it virtually or in person. We will also consider whether a particular format might prevent a hearing from running smoothly. In some cases, hearings may be held through a mix or both physical and virtual attendance.”


Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

One 17th August 2020, the SRA published a report warning law firms to be vigilant when advising on investment schemes. The SRA said:

“The latest warning notice makes it clear, among other issues, that solicitors must watch out for:

  • Transferring funds through their client account, without the transactions being connected to any underlying legal work
  • Doing no real legal work and legal fees are being generated when they are not necessary
  • Dubious or risky schemes being presented as routine conveyancing or investment in "land" when the reality is very different
  • Schemes labelled as for example mini-bonds, but are in fact speculative investments promising a high return and the buyers’ money is not being used in the way the seller it says it will.”

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said:

“Dubious investment schemes result in very significant financial losses for consumers and we will continue to take robust action where we find solicitors are involved. While most solicitors would never willingly participate in such schemes, those that do, whether knowingly or not, lend a veneer of credibility which sellers can exploit to help persuade people that their offer is legitimate. Not only does that harm those who buy into these schemes, it undermines confidence in the profession as a whole.”

You can access the full report here

On 2nd September 2020, the SRA published a review into cyber security in law firms.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said:

"It will be some time before the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic for the legal sector are fully understood, but we all know that millions more people than ever before are working from home, be they law firm employees or clients. That means the need for everyone to remain cybercrime vigilant has never been higher. Law firms should make sure that they have effective cyber security policies in place, and, crucially, that everyone in the firm understands and follows these day-to-day."

You can access the review here


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