Protecting the public: why is it so important to double-check fitness to practise decisions?
A drop in the ocean?
If you look at the statistics about how many fitness to practise decisions we check versus how many we actually go on to appeal – you may wonder what difference our double-check makes and how it contributes to public protection?
The impact of our power to appeal as well as our scrutiny of these decisions is akin to throwing a pebble into a pond – it has a greater impact than one lone, small statistic would suggest.
The difference our power to scrutinise and appeal fitness to practise decisions can make and the value this can add, includes:
Protecting the public
Removing from practice, or restricting the practice of a professional who is currently not fit to practise and could pose a risk to the public - any one healthcare professional could go on to treat or care for a 1,000 patients over the course of a year. Our independent oversight also ensures the public interest is represented and counterbalances the registrant’s right of appeal in the process.
Creating case law and helping to clarify the process
Our double-check of the regulators' final fitness to practise decisions has helped to drive up standards in decision-making and recording by regulators through the learning points we feedback. It also improves transparency and holds regulators to account to ensure that the most serious concerns are dealt with by their fitness to practise panels. Another key benefit is that our appeals have created case law which has helped to clarify the purpose of the fitness to practise process.
A bird's eye view across all 10 regulators' fitness to practise decisions
We scrutinise all final fitness practise decisions across the 10 professional regulators so this gives us a bird's eye and means we can highlight issues and identify themes. These can then be picked up by our performance review team and explored in more detail as part of our annual reviews on how the regulators are meeting our Standards of Good Regulation; or passed on to our policy team to delve deeper into the detail – for example, we noticed that panels were treating sexual misconduct with colleagues less seriously than with patients. The panels believed that this type of misconduct would not put the public at risk – we believed otherwise and carried out research to find out more. We can then share findings with the regulators, system regulators and other key stakeholders to help improve regulation.
A rich source of data
Our database of around 40,000 decisions checked since 2003 provides a wealth of data and has been used by researchers and academics to identify common causes of misconduct and can help us improve regulation – find out more about our research published into sexual misconduct, dishonesty and the professional duty of candour.