Importance of engagement and legal representation in fitness to practise highlighted in new research on seriousness

Cross-regulatory research to understand how the concept of seriousness is understood and applied by UK healthcare regulators in their fitness to practice work was published today.

While the results highlight a complex picture with some fundamental differences between the regulators and no standard definition of seriousness in fitness to practise, the research found some similarities and consistency in how the concept of seriousness is generally understood and used. Cases involving sexual misconduct, dishonesty, criminal convictions, are all types of behaviour that are likely to be treated as serious misconduct and where there is broadly

consistent guidance across all regulators.

Notably for professionals, the work underlines the importance of engaging with their regulator where fitness to practise concerns have been raised, and the importance of having legal representation. The results highlight the potential for more adverse outcomes in cases where professionals either do not engage or where they represent themselves, with professions such as dentists, doctors and pharmacists reported as having higher levels of representation, compared to dental care professionals, nurses and pharmacy technicians.

GDC Executive Director, Fitness to Practise, John Cullinane, said:

“The findings in this report will inform all our work where the concept of seriousness is relevant and provide useful evidence to inform our ongoing work to improve our fitness to practise processes. Our outdated legislation, however, severely limits how much progress we can make, preventing proportionate and responsive approaches in many areas of our work. We continue to press the Government to deliver the reforms they consulted on last year which we believe will give us the freedom to make significant improvements for the benefit of both patients and dental professionals.”

The concept of seriousness in fitness to practise cases was a collaborative piece of work involving the majority of the UK’s regulators of healthcare professions. The General Dental Council is grateful to its commissioning partner, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, its associate research partners in the project, the General Chiropractic Council, the General Optical Council, the General Osteopathic Council and the General Pharmaceutical Council, and to the General Medical Council for its support in recruiting participants for the research.

For further information contact Tom Chappell, Media Manager on or 07738 182756

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