Doctor sitting at desk looking upset

Fitness to Practise

If you're on a course that leads to a professional qualification and your School has concerns about your fitness to practise, either due to your health or behaviour, they may start the Fitness to Practise process

The Fitness to Practice process is conducted under Regulation B5 and there is also a Code of Practice with full information on the process. This page contains a summary of what to expect and how to prepare but you can refer to the Code of Practice for more details.

 

Fitness to practise is the ability to meet professional standards in your course and future career. The university considers your character, competence, and your health while closely following your professional body's own code. The university has a duty to consider professional students' fitness to practise to ensure that everyone who graduates is fit to go into that profession - they must consider the wellbeing of that students' potential future clients/patients and the importance of public confidence in the profession. 

Some examples of issues that may raise FTP concerns include:

  • You are convicted of a crime
  • You're found to have committed a disciplinary offence by the University
  • You're found to have committed academic misconduct
  • You have behaved in a way that raises concerns about your competence in the field. For example, concerns may be flagged during a placement.
  • You have been involved in an incident that caused, or may have caused, harm to a client.
  • You have behaved in a way that shows a lack of integrity, honesty or professionalism e.g. rudeness, aggressiveness, lying or acting fraudulently, poor time-keeping, failure to follow procedures, breaching confidentiality. This could be within the University, a placement, or in your personal life.
  • You are having problems with physical or mental health and this is affecting your ability to practice.
  • You have failed to get support for issues that were affecting your practice.

 

This will depend on the seriousness of the allegation. You would normally first be invited to a one-on-one meeting with a member of staff from your School; this could be just for a chat that goes no further, or it could be part of an investigation that can lead to a committee.

The potential stages are:

 

1. Meeting with a member of staff

A member of your School's staff will be assigned to investigate; this person will not have been involved in the circumstances leading to your referral. This meeting will be your opportunity to answer questions and explain the situation.

If you're accused of a minor allegation, you may just be warned or given a penalty without the case needing to go further. Potential outcomes could include writing a reflective essay or an apology.

If your case is more complex or more serious, this meeting would be part of an investigation. There will usually be a note-taker present and minutes will be recorded, which you will have the chance to read and sign as an accurate summary of the discussion before it is passed to the committee. You may be asked to follow-up meetings with the investigating officer to gather more information or if more concerns come to light.

 

2. Health & Conduct Committee

These committees are held by your School. Committees are made up of academic members of staff from within your School, along with some third party professionals and usually one 'layman' (someone from a non-professional course).  You will be sent a copy of all the paperwork being presented to the committee and have the chance to submit a statement along with any evidence.

The Chair will start the meeting with introductions, then the investigating officer will present the case. You will then be invited to speak and the committee will take it in turns to ask you questions. 

If you've been having problems with your health, they would want to explore this with you to make sure this wouldn't impact on your ability to do your job on placements or if you go on to work in the profession. This process can also be supportive, and they would want to make sure you have the right support in place for your needs. The university has a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to disabled students in their studies and on placements. 

If there are concerns about your behaviour, the aim of these meetings is to decide whether you have a full understanding of the implications of your actions and to determine whether you have properly reflected on your behaviour and would behave professionally if you continued on the course and, ultimately, into a professional career. 

Normally you would then leave the room while the committee discusses your case and you are brought back in for the decision. If it is online you may be called back or written to with the decision.

The committee can decide to put extra support in place for you or require you to talk to Occupational Health. If there are behaviour concerns they can put in place extra supervision, require you to write a reflective essay or send an apology to someone. In more extreme circumstances they can put you on a Leave of Absence or refer you to a Fitness to Practise Committee with a recommendation to withdraw you.

 

3. Fitness to Practise Committee

Your School's Health & Conduct Committee will refer you to the University's Fitness to Practise Committee if the allegation is very serious and/or if the School believes you should be withdrawn. These committees are very similar to the previous committee in structure but the academic staff members will be from your Faculty rather than your School and the School will send a representative to present their case. The representative should outline the School's knowledge of what has happened and any concerns held by the Health & Conduct Committee that led to the case being referred to the next stage.

If you have been referred to this committee with a recommendation to withdraw you it is a serious situation; this committee does have the power to withdraw you. However, they will hear the case afresh and will make their own decision, which may disagree with your School's recommendation. They have a number of other options available to them as penalties, the same as a Health & Conduct.

 

If there are concerns about your conduct, the best approach is to be open and honest, explaining what happened and showing an understanding of its impact and the behaviour expected in the profession. Think about why professionalism and honesty are important, how it reflects on the career as a whole, and what you have learned from what has happened. Think about what you would do differently.

The committee will be looking for this understanding, and would want to be satisfied that this would never be repeated so it's important you reflect carefully and think about what you want to tell them.

 

ASK can help you prepare your statement and any relevant evidence, exploring any concerns the university may have and how you can respond to them. We can also attend any meetings with you as support but we can't tell you what to say and in most situations we can't speak on your behalf - you will need to show your own reflections and your understanding of the profession's regulations, such as the importance of professionalism, honesty and integrity. 

 

In some circumstances, you may be able to appeal the decision. You will only be able to do this if you can satisfy one, or both, of the following grounds:

i) procedural irregularity in the conduct of the case;
ii) evidence which could not have been presented at the time of the original hearing.

More information on appealing can be found on the University website. Remember that there is a deadline of 14 calendar days to appeal and you must use the official appeal form.

If you would like to appeal or need some more information contact us at ASK and we will guide you through the process.