Today we launched a consultation on permanently amending our Rules to give us the express power to hold hearings remotely.
In March 2020 we were granted powers by the Department of Health and Social Care to hold remote hearings during the pandemic. Currently, the Coronavirus emergency provisions are due to expire on 30 September 2021. However, we would like the ability to continue holding remote hearings in circumstances where it is fair and practical to do so even after the expiry of the emergency period.
We are therefore seeking the views of our stakeholders on our proposal to permanently amend our Rules to give us the express power to hold hearings remotely.
We encourage all our registrants as well as professional bodies, employers and trade unions to help and provide input on this consultation.
We are seeking your views on reasons why we should or should not hold remote hearings once the emergency period ends. We also want to know if you consider there to be any equality and diversity implications for groups or individuals because of the proposed change to our Rules.
The consultation questions, more detail on our reasoning for the proposal, and information about our experience of holding remote hearings can be found in the consultation documents on our consultation page.
Our experience of holding remote hearings
The introduction of remote hearings last year was a major part of our pandemic response. We wanted to ensure fitness to practise, and registrations appeals cases could be heard expeditiously. The measures introduced in March 2020 meant that we had to adapt aspects of our fitness to practise and registrations appeals processes. Our aim in making these changes was to ensure that we could continue to fulfil our statutory duty to protect the public, progress fitness to practise investigations without unnecessary delay and conclude hearings as efficiently and safely as possible.
We have seen benefits to holding our hearings remotely. In line with our corporate strategy to continuously improve and innovate, we want to embrace new ways of working where it can bring advantages to us and those involved in the process.
Over the last year or so, we have also found that holding remote hearings offers greater flexibility and efficiency when scheduling and listing hearings. There have been advantages for all those involved in a hearing in not having to incur the time and financial costs associated with travelling to hearings and staying away from home. Our Tribunal Services team have also reported increased engagement from registrants who have been supported to participate in the process by the remote nature of the event.
We do recognise that other people may not share our views on remote hearings and that for some the technology involved may act as a barrier to participation. We are keen to hear all opinions and experiences so that we can take a range of views into account in planning for how we might proceed with remote hearings, should we receive our permanent Rule change.
The consultation opens today and you can download the consultation documents by visiting our consultation page.
The consultation will run until 23 November 2021.