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The RCVS has invited me for interview: what should I expect?

You could have conditions imposed on your practising licence if you are found to be in breach of your professional obligations

09 July 2020, at 8:50am

If you find yourself before the RCVS to face allegations relating to your fitness to practise following a complaint made by a client, from a colleague or from self-referral following from a clinical mistake, there are some important steps you should take and bear in mind.

What does the RCVS investigate?

It will undertake a comprehensive and thorough investigation against you should they be concerned about your competence to practise with their guidelines or allegations of misconduct.

The regulatory body performs a number of very important functions and its paramount aim is to safeguard and protect stakeholders from issues arising from the conduct and competence of regulated individuals.

The regulator holds a great deal of power over regulated individuals and “Fitness to Practise” panels can in the most serious case prevent you practising or they can impose conditions on the scope of your practice.

Impact on you

Should issues of conduct and competence arise and the regulator, following from its investigations (which may include inviting you to submit in writing a formal response to allegations), believes that the concerns are serious, they will invite you to appear at a formal disciplinary hearing before a specifically convened panel.
The seriousness of the alleged misconduct does not necessarily relate to the severity of the sanction applied.

What should you do?

Above all else, your engagement with the process, your insight into the issues and your credibility as a witness has the most significant bearing on the level of sanction applied in our experience.

Should you be invited to an interview or be subject to an investigation we suggest the following:

  • Lean into the situation – you will be surprised how supportive and reassuring your colleagues and practice managers can be. A referral to the RCVS is often a stressful experience and especially so for those surgeons and nurses with otherwise unblemished records
  • Put your best foot forward – in any response that you are invited to submit, ensure that you fully understand the allegations made against you and systematically work through them with an experienced and trusted advisor. Take appropriate advice and do not capitulate when you do not need to
  • The burden of proof rests with the regulator – do not be tempted to make admissions of liability when you do not need to or where the evidence against you is simply not there. Allegations against you need to be proved on the balance of probability. Similarly demonstrate proactive mitigation and insight if you believe you are at fault

Recent case

It comes as no surprise that regulated individuals hold a position of trust and responsibility, and clients expect you to conduct yourself in a way that justifies this trust. With this status, veterinary surgeons and nurses carry a burden of accountability which at times can appear to be fragile and be eroded easily.
We have recently represented a professional who was referred by their regulator to its “Fitness to Practise” panel to respond to four serious allegations. Possible sanctions faced by our client included strike-off and suspension. These are punitive, effectively career ending, punishments.

Managing your expectations and obtaining a successful outcome

After a two-day hearing involving expert cross-examination of the witnesses and submitting well-versed submissions and advocating persuasive representations on our client’s behalf, the conduct panel found that the individual’s fitness to practise was not impaired. The client remains able to practise with no restrictions and they were exceptionally grateful for our assistance.

It may be reassuring to know that only a very small number of concerns that are raised with the RCVS are progressed beyond the initial stage (assessment and investigation of the concern) and similarly only a small number progress beyond the second stage (consideration of the information by a committee) to the third and final stage (a disciplinary hearing).

HARRISON CLARK RICKERBYS SOLICITORS

Kamal Chauhan is an expert regulatory defence solicitor and is part of the health and social care team. He advises clients on the regulatory aspects arising in transactional matters (acquisition and disposal of businesses) and advocates on behalf of and defends clients who are under investigation and pursued by their regulatory body.

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