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The investigations process - further information
What happens when we receive a concern?
When we receive a concern about you, we will first assess it to decide whether it is about fitness to practise. We sometimes receive information about issues we cannot deal with. If this is the case, we will write to the person who raised the concern to explain.
Initial enquiries and the standard of acceptance
If the concern is about fitness to practise, a case will be opened so we can decide whether the concern meets the standard of acceptance. This is the level the concern about you must meet before we will investigate it as a fitness to practise allegation.
So that we can decide if the standard of acceptance is met, we will make initial enquiries and gather any relevant information about the concern. For example, we might ask for information from your employer or the person making the complaint. If you have received a conviction or caution, we might ask the police for information about the circumstances of your offence.
It can take some time for us to gather the information we need to assess if the standard of acceptance is met. This depends on how quickly other people can give us the information we need.
We will not normally tell you that we have received a concern about you until we are satisfied the concern meets the standard of acceptance. This is to avoid causing you unnecessary worry. However, we will tell you about the concern if we need to get information from your employer to help us decide whether the concern meets the standard of acceptance. This is so you hear direct from us about the concern rather than only through your employer.
If we find the concern does not meet the standard of acceptance, we will close the case and take no action.
What happens if the standard of acceptance is met?
If we find the concern does meet the standard of acceptance, we will gather any other information we need to draft the allegation and the allegation will be considered by a panel of the Investigating Committee.
Article 25(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 gives us the power to make a person or organisation give us information or produce documents which are relevant to fitness to practise allegations. However, this does not apply to you. We cannot make you give us information, or go to a hearing, if you choose not to. There are exceptions to this power, listed in Article 23(3) to (5). This power overrides the Data Protection Act 1998 (under section 35(1) of that Act) and other data-protection safeguards, such as Caldicott Guardian arrangements.
The allegation and your response
Once we have gathered enough information, we will draft a formal fitness to practise allegation. We will send the allegation to you, together with a copy of the information we have gathered, and will invite you to respond, in writing, within 28 days of our letter.
If you need more than 28 days to make your response, you can ask for more time. Your case manager can give you an extension of up to another 28 days. If you need more time after this, you will need to make a written application to the Investigating Committee.
It helps the Investigating Committee to make a decision if you respond and they have information from you. However, you do not have to send a response if you would prefer not to.
When we write to you, we will give you some information about what you might want to consider including in your response. For example, you could include a timeline for the events that have given rise to the concern, and, if it applies, any evidence of learning and any action you have taken to put the situation right. You may want to get advice from your union or professional body (if you are a member) or a lawyer before you respond.
If you do provide a response, we will not give this to the person who raised the concern about you. However, we may need to ask them questions as a result of the points you raise.
The Investigating Committee
After you have had the opportunity to respond to the allegation, we will pass a copy of the allegation, the information we have gathered and your response (if you have provided one) to a panel of our Investigating Committee to decide whether there is a ‘case to answer’. Each Investigating Committee Panel is made up of at least three people, including someone from the same profession as you and a lay person (someone who is not on our Register). The Investigating Committee Panel’s task is to look at the documentary evidence that is available and decide whether we will be likely to prove the facts of the allegation that has been made against you. The meeting is held in private and you (and the person who raised the concern) will not be invited to attend.
The Investigating Committee Panel does not decide whether the allegation is proven, they only decide whether we have a real prospect of proving the facts of the allegation at a final hearing.
The Investigating Committee can decide that:
- more information is needed or that the allegation needs to be amended;
- there is a ‘case to answer’ (which means they will refer the case to a final hearing); or
- there is ‘no case to answer’ (which means that the case does not need to be taken any further).
The Investigating Committee Panel will give reasons for their decision. We will write to you (and the person who raised the concern) after the meeting and will give you the Investigating Committee Panel’s decision and reasons. There is no process to allow you to appeal against a decision at this stage.
If the Investigating Committee Panel decide there is ‘no case to answer’ and within three years we receive another concern about your fitness to practise which is similar in nature, the Investigating Committee Panel can take the first case into account when considering the new information.
The purpose of this power is to make sure a concern which has been closed because a case to answer could not be established can still be taken into account if another similar concern is made against you, and it is relevant to do so. The previous concern will be taken into account as similar-fact evidence and will not be reopened as a new investigating.
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