We wanted to explore with patients and the public their perspective on future fitness to practise processes where hearings are not held, including how patients, the public and carers would wish to be involved in the likely future model, and views on oversight of the new arrangements
Earlier this year we contracted the agency Community Research to explore with patients and the public their perspective on future fitness to practise processes where hearings are not held. The study covered the potential impact of the emerging approach on public confidence, how patients, the public and carers would wish to be involved in the likely future model, and views on oversight of the new arrangements.
The researchers used online and face-to-face discussion groups with a broad range of participants, as well as telephone interviews with people who had recently complained specifically to health and care professional regulators. To hear participants’ voices through an excellent selection of quotes, you can read the full report.
The report found that broadly participants were supportive of moves to reduce the number of public hearings and use a more consensual model. Participants did, however, feel there were risks in reducing the number of hearings since this would mean less external scrutiny of decisions. There was, therefore, a general view that independent oversight should be retained and the whole regulatory system leading to final decisions on fitness to practise would need to be robust.
Participants also wanted reassurance that, if there was no cross-examination in public at a hearing, the complainant would still have a voice and the evidence would be properly scrutinised and challenged. They called for witnesses to be able to give their side of the story in a way that is as user-friendly as possible and still able to convey nuance and emotion.
Given the low levels of awareness of regulation and fitness to practise cases, coupled with the relatively high levels of confidence in health and social care professions, there was a general feeling that the proposed changes are likely to have little impact on public confidence as a whole. However, it was acknowledged that this could change if a concerning case involving a professional, who had caused significant harm, came to light that had been dealt with inappropriately through a consensual process.