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Guidance on health and character
We work on the principle of ‘professional self-regulation’. This means that you have a personal responsibility to maintain and manage your own fitness to practise. You also have to make decisions about whether you are fit to practise your profession.
This includes deciding whether changes to your health affect your fitness to practise. As a registrant, you are expected to meet certain extra responsibilities linked to your professionalism. This includes the professional responsibility to declare information to us about any changes to your health or character.
The standards of conduct, performance and ethics
Our standards of conduct, performance and ethics explain the ethical behaviour that we expect you to meet and keep to. The standards play an important role in helping us make decisions about whether someone is fit to practise.
The standards of conduct, performance and ethics say that:
“You must tell us (and any other relevant regulators) if you have important information about your conduct or competence, or about other registrants and health and care professionals you work with. In particular, you must let us know straight away if you are:
- convicted of a criminal offence, receive a conditional discharge for an offence, or if you accept a police caution;
- disciplined by any organisation responsible for regulating or licensing a health or social care profession; or
- suspended or placed under a practice restriction by an employer or similar organisation because of concerns about your conduct or competence.”
Telling us this information is called a ‘self-referral’.
Telling us about changes to your health or character
As we have said above, you have a responsibility to maintain and manage your fitness to practise. This includes giving us important information about your character or health.
There are two different ways in which you can give us this information. You can either tell us at any point during your two-year registration cycle, which is called a ‘self-referral’. Or, you can give us the information when you come to renew your registration.
You only need to declare changes to your health that affect your ability to practise when you renew your registration. However, you can choose to tell us about changes to your health at any other time if you want to. Please see page 19 of our guidance for more information about these requirements.
However, you must let us know straight away if you are:
- convicted of a criminal offence, receive a conditional discharge for an offence or accept a police caution;
- disciplined by any organisation responsible for regulating or licensing a health or care profession; or
- suspended or placed under a practice restriction by an employer or similar organisation because of concerns about your conduct or competence.
The requirement to tell us straight away about character issues means that you would usually give us this information through a self-referral rather than waiting until you next renew your registration. This means that almost all the self-referrals we receive are about character issues. The following guidance on self-referrals only applies to character. However, if a registrant chose to make a self-referral about their health, we would consider the information in the same way.
Information supplied as a self-referral follows a slightly different process to information which is supplied when renewing registration. In cases where you are renewing registration, we pass information to a registration panel if this is necessary. If serious information about you is provided when you are renewing your registration, the panel can recommend that you should not be allowed to renew your registration.
A self-referral takes place outside the registration renewal process. When we receive a self-referral, we will consider the information to decide whether we should take any further action. We will pass the information received to the Fitness to Practise Department. If after assessing the information they decide that it raises concerns about your fitness to practise, they may decide that the matter should be investigated further.
We understand that you may be worried about the effect on your registration if you tell us about changes to your character. Declaring this information is part of your professional responsibility as a registrant and we believe that it shows insight and understanding. We hope that this section will explain the process we use and also reassure you.
All of the professions we regulate are ‘notifiable occupations’. This means that the police should tell us automatically if you are cautioned or convicted of an offence.
However, you should still tell us as soon as possible if you are convicted of an offence, receive a caution, are disciplined by your employer or placed under any practise restriction because of concerns about your conduct or competence. You must do this by writing to our Fitness to Practise Department.
When you give us information about your character at any time other than through the registration application or renewal process, you are making what we call a ‘self-referral’. If you make a self-referral and give us information about your character, we will consider that information and decide whether the issues could affect your fitness to practise. If the information suggests that your ability to practise safely and effectively is affected, we will investigate the matters in more detail. You can find out more about the fitness to practise process here.
If we do not think that the issues raised will affect your fitness to practise, we will write to you and let you know. We will not take any further action.
If we refer the case to our fitness to practise process, we will let you know. An Investigating Committee panel will meet to consider the issue. This panel will decide whether there is a ‘case to answer’ and, if so, whether the case should be considered at a full hearing by a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee or Health Committee. Before the Investigating Committee considers the case, you will have the chance to give this panel extra information if you want to.
The panel at a final hearing can make the following decisions. They can decide to:
- take no further action;
- send the case for mediation;
- caution you;
- place a conditions of practice order on you;
- suspend you; or
- in very serious circumstances, strike you off the Register.
You have the right to appeal the decision to the High Court or, in Scotland, the Court of Session.
You only need to tell us about changes to your health when you renew your registration. We set this requirement because we expect you to manage your health appropriately during the course of your registration, which includes adjusting or stopping your practice if you need to (see ‘Renewing your registration’ on page 15 for more information). However, if you do decide to tell us, we will look at that information and carefully consider whether we might need to take any action.
You must still keep to the standards of conduct, performance and ethics.
Standards 6.3 says:
“You must make changes to how you practise, or stop practising, if your physical or mental health may affect your performance or judgement, or put others at risk for any other reason.”
Here is a diagram which outlines the process for self-referrals.