Like other organisations the world over, we at the HCPC have had our ways of working alter over the past two years since the start of the pandemic
Now that we have had more time to digest what has happened and assess the lessons we have learned, we can see what we got right and where improvements are needed.
Thankfully, today we are in a place where we can once again look to the future and put longer-term plans in place, ensuring fairness, support and resilience within all of our systems.
One major piece of this forward-facing planning is on how we facilitate our registration and fitness to practice hearings in the future. We introduced remote hearings in March 2020 and emergency rules were put in place in March 2021 which expressly enabled regulators like the HCPC to hold hearings remotely.
These rules will come to an end later this year and over the past few months we at the HCPC have been engaging with stakeholders on next steps. We listened to what has worked well and what needed to change, and to think about how we could best utilise this new resource going forward.
After these discussions, and following our review of the feedback we received to our consultation, we have concluded that remote hearings can be an effective tool that can support registrants.
We will therefore be retaining the ability to use them. We recognise the concerns expressed by those who responded to our consultation, and in making this decision we have sought to take on board the feedback we received.
Providing a flexible approach
Remote hearings offer flexibility that can speed up the process. Crucially, they can reduce the waiting time for registrants, and enable them to mitigate the impact of having to take time off or have longer spells away from home. We have seen higher levels of engagement when hearings are remote, with increased registrant attendance, particularly for review and Interim Order Applications and other one day hearings.
Retaining the ability to access this new technology means we can also offer a greater range of options, and better take into account registrant choice. We can now cater for the individual needs of those going through the process, and not impose a one-size-fits-all system in a world now full of different ways to work.
It is important to note that our decision to continue offering remote hearings does not mean that hearings will take place remotely in all cases – indeed, the format of final FTP hearings will always be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Even for non-final FTP hearings and registration appeals hearings, if evidence suggests that a hybrid approach or an in-person hearing is more appropriate, then those options will remain available.
The needs and desires of registrants are key in an FTP process, to ensure fairness and trust, and this message was clear in the consultation feedback we received.
Part of the reason why we have taken the decision we have is because we are determined to focus on those registrant needs, particularly those who, prior to the introduction of remote hearings, found engaging with the in-person system challenging.
Our Equality Impact Assessment clearly outlines the benefits this move could continue to bring, and when coupled with the findings that no significant differences were present in the outcomes from the different hearing types, we were confident in our decision to proceed with this course of action.
How will we determine the format of a hearing?
We appreciate that for many people this decision may not have been their first choice, which is why we are determined to be as open and clear about the process as we can be.
To that end we have introduced a clear set of factors to guide decision-making about whether a hearing should be held in-person, remotely or using a hybrid approach. These factors are:
- Any evidence that suggests the integrity, fairness or smooth running of the hearing may be impacted by holding it in a particular format;
- Whether there are reasonable adjustments or special measures required to allow a participant to engage fully and effectively in the proceedings, which may benefit from the hearing being held in a particular format;
- The view of the registrant;
- Any technical, logistical, personal or circumstantial barriers that might prevent a participant engaging effectively in proceedings if the hearing is not held in a particular format;
- Any features of the case which makes it particularly difficult for it to be held in a particular format.
We believe that, through the application of these factors, we will ensure that all key evidence will be taken into consideration, and that registrants can retain confidence in the system. This list is not exhaustive and each case will be considered on its own merits, taking into account all evidence relevant to the decision.
Clearly this is a big step for us all, but with future ways of working becoming increasingly hybrid, we hope that in time all registrants will see the benefits of a more flexible and tailored system that will continue to deliver the same service.
After the two years we have all had, we are pleased to be once again looking forward and making plans for the years ahead. As always, our door remains open as this system continues to embed itself to hear your thoughts on how it is working and whether there are any improvements we can make in the future.
Sign-up to our webinars
We are holding webinars to outline why we have taken the decision to allow the continued use of remote and hybrid hearings to complement the use of in-person hearings within the HCPC tribunal service.
We will go through the new principles that will determine the type of hearing and respond or capture all questions from those taking part.