UNISON helps members who are registered professionals in individual fitness to practise proceedings and liaises with regulators, such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Health and Care Professions Council, and with the Professional Standards Authority to get a fairer process for registrants.
How we help
You are a registered professional if you have to remain registered with a regulator in order to hold your professional title (eg nurse, midwife, paramedic, operating department practioner, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, social worker, teacher).
If a complaint is made against you and you are referred to your regulator (eg NMC or HCPC) by your employer, the police, a service user or anyone else, you will need experienced representation by a national officer.
If you are subject to fitness to practise proceedings, UNISON will provide representation and advice at all stages of the regulator’s investigatory process including at interim, substantive and review hearings.
For assistance, complete a CASE form and return it to your UNISON branch without delay. The normal membership rules and conditions of representation apply.
Who can we help?
UNISON can represent you in fitness to practise proceedings if you are a member who is a registered professional. The main health and social care professional regulatory bodies we deal with are:
Care Council for Wales (CCW)
General Pharmaceutical Council (GPC)
General Osteopathic Council (GOsC)
General Optical Council (GOC)
General Medical Council (GMC)
General Dental Council (GDC)
General Chiropractic Council (GCC)
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)
Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI)
Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
Support professional regulation through the NMC
The Nursing and Midwifery Council is the professional regulator for nurses and midwives in the UK. Their fitness to practise committee panels include nurses and midwives as well as lay members. The NMC would like to recruit 50 members of the profession to the panels.
UNISON encourages registrant members to apply for this position, particularly activists. You are paid for hearing dates and preparation work. Half-day sitting, training and reading days are paid on a pro-rata basis. Panel members will be expected to undertake some pre-reading and some e-learning in their own time.
For more information about the role and details of how to apply, visit the Harvey Nash website.
What are the stages of a fitness to practise process by a regulator?
The main stages are:
- hearings (conduct / competence / health).
Secondary stages include:
- registration issues;
- interim order hearings and reviews;
- preliminary hearings;
- substantive order review hearings;
- restoration applications and hearings.
Who can refer a complaint about me to my regulatory body?
Anyone, including yourself, your employer, a service user or their family, and the police.
What sanctions can the independent hearing panel order against a registrant if they find that fitness to practise is currently impaired?
The main substantive sanctions are:
- no sanction – rare;
- mediation – rare;
- caution order – 1 to 5 years;
- conditions of practice – up to 3 years;
- suspension – up to 1 year;
- strike off – may result in referal to Disclosing and Barring Service (DBS).
In some cases it is also possible for a registrant to apply for an accepted sanction by way of disposal by consent (usually a caution, conditions of practice or suspension order) or to apply for voluntary removal from their professional register.
What should I keep in mind if a complaint is referred to my regulator?
It is important that you:
- Self-refer to your regulator when you do something wrong or an allegation is made against you – but seek UNISON advice first.
- Engage early with UNISON – don’t wait for a deadline for response or a hearing before you contact us.
- Prepare a written reflection showing early insight into the errors of your way.
- Retrain and get evidence of re-testing and on the job assessment of areas that you fell down on.
- Gather factual evidence to support your case, especially if you deny the allegations.
- Get written witness evidence – as prescribed by PSU.
- Get written testimonials attesting to your character and professional abilities.
- Find witnesses to provide oral evidence on your behalf at a hearing.
What is fitness to practise?
A registered professional, such as a nurse, paramedic or social worker, must be currently fit to practise in order to remain on their professional register without any restrictions on their practice that is in relation to:
- physical and mental health;
- conduct in work and private life.
How can I avoid being referred to my regulator?
Make sure that you:
- Read and abide by the Standards and Codes that apply to your profession.
- Ensure you are properly trained and maintain your training (continuing professional development or CPD).
- Risk assess working arrangements so you can practise safely and efficiently (TU assistance for talks with employer).
- Recognise that you are ultimately responsibility for your actions, even on breaks at work and outside of work.
- Question inappropriate instructions from senior staff (eg don’t give medication without a written prescription except in recognised emergency procedures).
- Keep your documentation up to date – if it isn’t recorded, it didn’t happen.
- Remain professional outside of work (eg be careful with social media, avoid criminal convictions and cautions or any other kind of trouble that might be deemed to bring your profession in to disrepute).
Who is eligible for representation?
Registered professionals who have continuous membership of UNISON at the appropriate subscription for at least 4 weeks prior to the incident leading to the allegation to the regulator – see Rule K.2(i) of the UNISON rule book (download it here – PDF )