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Sharing concerns with us - the role it plays in our performance reviews

The Authority is contacted most days by individuals who wish to raise concerns about their experience of the healthcare regulators. Many people contact us hoping we can take action about their concerns and others do so explicitly to provide us with feedback to inform us in our role as an oversight body. We encourage people to share their experience of the regulators and we consider all the feedback we receive as background to our performance review work.

Concerns from members of the public

Around two-thirds of the concerns we receive are from members of the public and most of the rest are from registrants. The majority of concerns we receive from both the public and professionals relate to the regulators’ fitness to practise processes. Other issues that are regularly raised with us include the regulators’ registration functions, their standards and guidance, their approaches to illegal practice, to equalities issues and concerns about both data security and the openness of regulators to provide information to the public.

Many of the fitness to practise concerns we receive are about decisions made during the initial and investigation stages of the fitness to practise process. Concerns with these decisions raised by the public often reflect the regulators’ high thresholds for taking action against a professional’s registration. Some members of the public also struggle to differentiate between the purpose of the fitness to practise process and that of a local complaints process. However, individuals also tell us of their concerns about how well a regulator has considered the evidence and the conclusions it has drawn. Some tell us that entering a dialogue about their concerns can be difficult.

These insights are valuable for the Authority as this area of the regulators’ decision-making is not subject to our Section 29 review powers. We do not, therefore, have the regular flow of cases to examine that we do for final decisions. The public share with us many instances of the regulators’ reasoning for their decisions and how they deal with challenges to those decisions or the emergence of new evidence. This is highly valuable to us.

We are also regularly contacted by individuals following the conclusion of a hearing of a fitness to practise committee, who believe the outcome of a case was insufficient to protect the public. Usually these are people who have been personally affected by the case being heard. Their feedback about the case is considered fully by our Section 29 Review Team during its review of a decision. This feedback often helps us identify areas where the handling of a case could have been improved. However, this may not in itself be enough for us to argue that a decision was insufficient to protect the public.

Whether we receive concerns about initial decisions or final outcomes, we also gain important insight into the public’s experience  when raising concerns with the regulators. This includes the customer service and witness support provided to individuals. We are aware from our research and reviews that a positive tone from regulators to individuals can prevent barriers to raising concerns forming.

We recognise that regulators do good work to support individuals who bring concerns to them and we would encourage regulators to continue to be as open as possible about the evidence they consider and the reasoning behind their decisions.

Feedback from registrants

The feedback we receive from registrants often involves concerns about the length of time the fitness to practise process takes and the effect this may have on their health and career. Again, we see good examples of how the regulators are sensitive to the stress a fitness to practise process creates for registrants, but we also hear of examples where communication appears to break down.

We also receive concerns from registrants who believe the final outcome they receive is unfair and their sanction was too harsh. We cannot assist registrants with these concerns as it would be likely to conflict with our duties under Section 29 to review the outcomes of the regulators’ hearings on behalf of the public. However, we will take note of any feedback we receive about the process.

We use the feedback we receive from the public and professionals to help us decide the course of our performance review work by identifying areas of the regulators’ work we should scrutinise further. This helps us target the questions we ask regulators and decide which of the regulators’ processes we will look into in more detail in the course of a review. The concerns we receive provide valuable qualitative insights into the performance and culture of the regulators.

While we use the information we receive to inform our work, we are not able to investigate individual cases on behalf of those that raise them. We therefore usually refer individuals back to the regulator’s own processes to resolve their concerns. It can be disappointing for individuals to learn that we usually cannot intervene, but we always welcome hearing from those who wish to share their experience with us.

Anyone wishing to share their experience of a regulator with us can do so  here and you can read our performance reviews of the regulators here.

Related material

Read our case study about feedback shared with us to highlight concerns about regulators creating barriers to vulnerable people raising potentially serious concerns

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Please note the views expressed in these blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily reflect those of the Professional Standards Authority.